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Ryder Cup 2021: Europe needs “a new edge” to beat US, believes Padraig Harrington

Padraig Harrington (left) and Shane Lowry on the 18th tee at Carnoustie during the Dunhill Links.

Finding a new “edge” for Europe against the Americans in the Ryder Cup is going to be even harder in future, because “they now do what we do”, says Padraig Harrington.

After taking a few days with his thoughts, the captain of the team trounced at Whistling Straits hasn’t changed his view that he did all he could in the circumstances. He isn’t second-guessing any of his decisions and feels frustrated that he can’t explain them all.

‘I’d like everyone to know exactly what happened’

Padraig Harrington battles through the early bad weather on Friday at Carnoustie.

“I’m the sort of person who’d like everybody to know exactly what happened and went on,” he said.

“I don’t read anything that’s written and I want no part of (a discussion on) social media. But you hear things and there is a part of me that wants to explain. That’s frustrating, because I know I can’t, not individually.”

The bottom line is, he thinks, that Europe have taught the Americans well.

“They do everything we’ve learned,” he said. “We’ve taught them a thing or two over the last 20 years, and they’ve caught on.

“Every little bit of innovation that Europe has introduced to make an edge, they now have. Things we’ve done, like trying to put their weakest pairs against our strongest.

“They do what we do. Plus, they were a pretty good team to come up against.”

‘I’m not sure there is another edge’

The USA won 19-9 at Whistling Straits.

Getting a new “edge” going forward will be tough, he added, but he believes that the situation could be very different in 2023 in Rome.

“I’m not sure there is another edge,” he admitted. “And we won’t really know until we find it. That’s always the way.

“Getting our speed of greens will help us; they were clearly very comfortable at the weekend and holed a lot of putts on those greens, we didn’t hole as many.

“Bring them down to European speeds, when we seem to hole a lot of putts. There’s lots of things like that. The golf course may be the only edge we have going forward now, because they have everything.”

That said, he still feels that Europe can be more competitive.

‘We could be in the ascendancy by then’

Garcia and Rahm had to lead off on Saturday against the accepted tactics.

“As I said to the guys, they (the US) are really up there now and since Paris we’ve (plateaued),” he added. “It’s unlikely we can get level but we can get a round about.

“Two years is a long time in golf. We could be in the ascendency by then. They are on a right peak at the moment. But in two years’ time that might not be the case.

“We’ve been very successful in Europe so what would you change anything? We should just keep going forward with what we’re doing. There’s no need to panic. As strong as they are, time is a great leveller. There are always ebbs and flows.”

Harrington did say that he wasn’t rigid with his pairings – “two partnerships changed from the Monday. What we had in our minds for foursomes changed because of a ball issue.”

He left out Sergio Garcia in the Friday foursomes because “12 into 8 don’t go” and he wanted to see all players on the first day. Shane Lowry didn’t play more because he was a rookie and a pick, and they didn’t want on heap pressure on him.

‘Intuition dominated and the stats backed it up’

Harrington wasn’t overly driven by the stats, either. “All through the week, we clearly picked the team based on what we knew to be best,” he continued. “And the great thing was that the stats never varied from those decisions in any significant way.

“We went with what we felt best. Our intuition dominated (decisions) and the stats backed that up.”

The one situation where they did go against the stats was putting Jon Rahm and Sergio out first on Saturday.

“The way to win is to play your weakest group against their strongest group. You want your 1-2-3  groups playing their 2-3-4. That is what the US did.

“You don’t lead with the strongest group. But we had to lead with Jon and Sergio, never mind what the stats said, because we were chasing and wanted the momentum.”

Not a big changing of the guard for Rome

Harrington doesn’t necessarily think there will be an outright changing of the guard for Rome.

“I don’t necessarily think so,” he said. “There’ll be a bit of ebb and flow. Like Tyrrell (Hatton) and Tommy (Fleetwood). Start of the year, Tyrrell was on top of the world.

“We have that group in the middle who are still young, Tommy Fleetwood is just 30, he hasn’t hit his peak yet. Guys like him and Tyrrell. Bernd (Wiesberger) and Shane. Will we have a few younger guys? Yeah, but we need to see them step up.”

But he thinks the Americans taking an extra week to familiarise themselves with Whistling Straits has set a precedent.

“I think he US kind of put themselves in a hole now – do they travel the week before to Italy, go over and practice, can they get them all to go and do that?

“Is that the commitment they have to try and win this Ryder Cup?”