CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND | On a day when Padraig Harrington said he intends to throw his hat into the ring for the European Ryder Cup captaincy of 2020 at Whistling Straits, this two-time Open Championship winner said that he is not without hope of winning the Open again at Carnoustie this summer.
The 46-year-old Irishman will start working on his links game within the next few weeks and, though he is currently doing duty at the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans – and spoke to the media assembled at Carnoustie on Tuesday via video link – he will definitely be back in Europe for the Irish and Scottish opens.
It goes without saying that the number of golfers 40 and older to have won the Open in the last few years – four since 2011 in the persons of Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson – has served to remind him that the championship is not just for younger men. As, indeed, has Tom Watson’s effort in being the runner-up to Stewart Cink in 2009 at the age of 59.
In spelling out why the Open works for “wily old things” – Tiger Woods was one of this breed to get a mention – he talked about how well-equipped the group are when it comes to working their way round a tough links. “That they have the greater variety of shots can play into their hands,” he said. In his case, he thinks it is also about long years of experience in the art of playing in bad weather.
Here, he quoted his old Irish coach, Howard Bennett, who used to say how, on a lousy day, half the players weren’t properly prepared, while the other half weren’t up to dealing with it.
Harrington, who won the first of his two Opens at Carnoustie in 2007, dreams of playing the 2018 Open in a feisty wind, with a 20 mph version in full flow on at least one of the days. “That would definitely reduce the number of players I have to beat.”
Though he pondered on whether he might have just too much in the way of experience under his belt for his own good, he clearly had no qualms about saying that 2020 would be absolutely the right time for him as far as the Ryder Cup captaincy is concerned, not least because he would be back playing in Europe by then. This, incidentally, is something he sees as a prerequisite for anyone who wants the job and one which would apply to Lee Westwood and Paul Lawrie, two more who will presumably be pitching for the post.
Though people have been mentioning Harrington as an obvious candidate for 2026, when Ireland’s Adare Manor is lobbying to host the matches, Harrington says that that would be too late: “I can’t afford to wait that long because there would be lots of good new players on the scene and I’d be out of touch.”
Harrington has twice been a vice captain; to Paul McGinley in 2014 and to Darren Clarke in 2016.