Nine players are in the hunt for Padraig Harrington’s three wildcard picks for his European Ryder Cup team – but he strongly hinted that all would be experienced men.
After finishing at Royal St George’s with a one-over 71 for a four round total of 4-over, Harrington said that not much had changed in his mind in one of the biggest points-gaining weeks of the qualification year.
The two-time Open champion from Ireland confirmed that eight of nine qualifiers were “stitched-on”; namely Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood.
Perez being caught by Lowry
The ninth and final spot is currently occupied by the France’s Victor Perez, but the Dundee-based former Dunhill Links winner didn’t add to his points total at Sandwich and is under increasing threat from Harrington’s fellow Irishman Shane Lowry.
“I’d say there are probably six experienced and maybe three rookies vying for the picks,” he said. “It’s harder for the rookies. They have to do something exceptional to get a pick.
“Then again, if you do something exceptional it is likely you will make the team. A lot depends on who plays their way into that ninth (qualifying) spot. If Victor holds on, he will be a rookie. So I’d be more likely to go with experienced players as picks.
“Nothing has really changed this week,” he continued. “Anyone playing well I’ve been well aware, I don’t think any outliers appeared.
“I’m more focused on the ones I can see than the ones I can’t. I’d rather see the players I’m interested in doing well and being up there.
“The players on the fringes of the team I want to see playing well. And I want to see those who are looking for a pick playing well too.”
‘It’s about playing well when you’re leading’
That might include Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, who would be in the category of those needing to “do something exceptional”. The Scot finished tied eighth, but Harrington’s reference to what he’d seen seemed specifically aimed at the left-hander.
“I place a lot of store on stressful rounds,” Harrington said. “All major rounds are stressful, but especially those in contention.
“It’s not about shooting 65 on Sunday to finish fifth. It’s about playing well when you’re leading or close to the lead. That’s a different stress and the sort of feeling you’re going to have in the Ryder Cup.”