Ryder Cup: Padraig Harrington reveals revamp of European qualifying system

May 05, 2020

Padraig Harrington is continuing preparations for the Ryder Cup in September and revealed that the qualifying system for the European team is still being revamped.

Harrington admitted he agreed with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, who have both said the Ryder Cup will lose a lot of appeal for the players if it is played behind closed doors at Whistling Straits, but he remains determined to "be as prepared as possible" for a trip to Wisconsin in the autumn.

The Irishman declared the new qualifying criteria "reasonable and fair" without going into specifics, although he did confirm he would not be picking all 12 players while also accidentally letting slip that Luke Donald will be one of his vice-captains.

"I'm not getting 12 picks, that's for sure," said Harrington, live on The Golf Show on Sky Sports News. "The Tour have been very reasonable. They did the numbers on it, I asked for a few situations to do more numbers, and they presented that to the tournament committee to have a look.

"It's not just reasonable, it's actually quite fair whatever option I'll have in terms of picks. It's kind of irrelevant how many picks I get, the difficult pick is always going to be 11 and 12. Even if I had six picks, the last two would be the most difficult and they're the ones that are usually more controversial.

"It's not a huge deal in terms of how many picks I end up with, because it'll come down to two people at the end. But it's fair, and anyone that has played well will be well looked after in this system, and there will still be room for manoeuvre for some players who haven't played their way into the team so far."

Harrington has been discussing stats, logistics and tactics with a number of key personnel on a regular basis and let it slip that Donald would be reprising the vice-captaincy role that he won unanimous acclaim for in 2018.

"I'm trying to prepare every day like I'm going to play the Ryder Cup. It might not be a normal Ryder Cup in September, but I need to be as prepared as I can be," he said.

"I've spoken to Guy Kinnings (Ryder Cup director) this week, I spoke to Luke, one of my vice-captains, yesterday, and I talked to the stats guy today because I've sat down to look at how my team would look if I had to pick it now.

"I know the different models that are in place depending on when we get back to playing, so I'll have a little look at that. I'm very happy with how the team is shaping up, but I'd certainly like to see some form before I have to make those picks.

"So I'm really looking forward to getting some play in over in the United States. Obviously, if the Ryder Cup is going to go ahead, we really need to start playing on the PGA Tour in June and we need to resume on the European Tour well in advance of the Ryder Cup to give me some sense of how players are playing."

Harrington also reiterated that he and his team may need to "take one for the team" in playing the Ryder Cup behind closed doors if necessary, while sympathising with the players who would lose their chance to experience high-pressure sport in an incredible atmosphere.

"None of the players want to have a Ryder Cup without the fans," he said. "The reason why we play the Ryder Cup is for the glory. We the opportunity to be out there in the middle of the stadium just like a footballer. That just doesn't happen much in golf unless you're winning the tournament or you're the home favourite.

"But at the Ryder Cup, it happens all the way through for six days. That's what the players crave. They don't get paid, but they crave that opportunity for glory. Clearly, nobody wants to play a Ryder Cup behind closed doors, but they're keeping a prudent eye on it because they know that, if the PGA Tour events in June go well without the fans, it's a possibility.

"It's an option that nobody wants to take, and the players don't want it, but we might have to take one for the world team of sport and put an event on that people can watch. It wouldn't be the same for us, obviously, but it's sport on TV that we're all craving. If we see any live sport right now, we'd all be sitting at home watching it.

"Sky are doing a great job with all the re-runs, but having some unpredictability to an event would be nice. You don't realise what you miss."

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