Ryder Cup captain Harrington defends Rory McIlroy on Euro Tour comments

The Irishman was named captain of the Europe team for the 2020 competition at the Whistling Straits course in the American state of Wisconsin. Steve Stricker, who served as a vice captain for the past three Ryder Cups and was the 2017 U.S. Presidents Cup captain, is the leading contender.

The three-time major champion was the overwhelming favourite to succeed Thomas Bjorn, who led Europe to a famous seven-point win at Le Golf National in an impressive response to Team USA's resounding triumph at Hazeltine in 2016.

Bjorn's side put on a ruthless display while outplaying the United States in a 17.5-10.5 victory at Le Golf National in September previous year.

The 47-year old Dubliner became the overwhelming favourite when England's Lee Westwood confirmed late last year, he was not interested in the 2020 Captaincy and instead, he is focussed on leading Europe in 2022 at Rome.

"It's not something I went into lightly".

"It does make my job easier that I feel I have the confidence of the players", Harrington added.

"I strongly looked at the fact we were going to a golf course that is at least European-style. That's normally what we do and one of the reasons we've had success in the event is this elevation of vice captains into captains". It is really tough to win a Ryder Cup in America, but there is nobody more suited to taking on that challenge.

Padraig Harrington and his wife Caroline with the Ryder Cup trophy at Wentworth yesterday.

The victor of The Open in 2007 at Carnoustie, The Open in 2008 at Royal Birkdale and the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills, Harrington went 9-13-3 in six consecutive appearances for Europe from 1999 through 2010, playing on four winning teams. "It seems to be the right time and place for me in my career".

"I know we're going to a new venue, it's an away match, we're going to have on average three more rookies coming in to the team".

Harrington has promised to "find an edge" but it's the United States who are favourites to land the Ryder Cup on home soil at 8/13, with Harrington a 6/4 shot to win the match and defend the trophy the Europeans won so emphatically in Paris previous year.

As a player, Harrington made his Ryder Cup debut at the Country Club in Brookline in 1999 and was ever-present for the following five editions, helping Europe to victory in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010.

"You know you've got a game when you're playing against him. You just have to know the man behind the scenes".

  • Stacy Allen