On the day that Padraig Harrington was confirmed as European Captain for 2020, we take a look back at The Ryder Cup career of Ireland's most successful golfer.
Harrington’s Ryder Cup journey began in 1999 at one of the most famous contests in the event’s history.
The Irishman, who had won his first European Tour event three years earlier, qualified automatically for Mark James’ team and was joined by six other rookies in the European side that travelled to Brookline, including Paul Lawrie, Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Sergio Garcia.
There was no soft introduction for Harrington, however, as James selected him for the opening round of matches and paired him with Jiménez. The rookie pairing restored the faith shown in them by their captain, claiming half a point against Davis Love III and Payne Stewart.
His next involvement came in the Saturday foursomes, when he was paired with Jiménez once more, but the duo went down 1UP to Tiger Woods and Steve Pate. Europe led 10-6 heading into Sunday, but Ben Crenshaw’s side rallied on the final day to triumph 14.5-13.5. The Americans won the first seven matches on Sunday to go 13-10 up, before Harrington stopped the rot with a 1UP victory over Mark O’Meara. However, the hosts held on to win for the first time since 1993.
Harrington qualified automatically again in 2002 and this time tasted success. Alongside Colin Montgomerie, the then 31 year old earned a point against Phil Mickelson and David Toms before beating Mark Calcavecchia 5&4 in the Sunday singles. Europe reigned victorious at The Belfry and Harrington had more than played his part.
In 2004, Harrington experienced Ryder Cup victory on American soil for the first time, just a week after winning the Linde German Masters. Bernhard Langer’s team produced a stunning performance to win by 18.5-19.5 at Oakland Hills Country Club, with Harrington one of the standout performers. He arrived in Michigan as World Number Eight and played some exceptional golf to contribute four points, including a 2&1 win over Mickelson and Woods in the opening match of the contest.
The Ryder Cup headed to the Republic of Ireland for the first time in 2006, so it was fitting that Harrington should qualify for the team that congregated at The K Club. Under the guidance of Captain Ian Woosnam, Europe capped a remarkable week with another 18.5-9.5 win.
Europe suffered their first defeat since Harrington’s debut in 1999 when the tournament returned to the United States in 2008. Harrington had won The Open Championship and the US PGA Championship that year and arrived at the event in fourth place in the Official World Golf Ranking, but he couldn’t stop Paul Azinger’s men from storming to victory at Valhalla Golf Club. The Americans never trailed at the end of a session during that week in Kentucky and won 16.5-11.5. That made redemption in two years’ time all the more pressing.
The 2010 Ryder Cup will be remembered by many for a long time. Heavy rain disrupted Colin Montgomerie’s plans to help win back the Samuel Ryder Trophy and even forced a Monday finish at Celtic Manor, Wales. Montgomerie, who could call upon a 21 year old Rory McIlroy, selected Harrington, Luke Donald and Edoardo Molinari as Captain’s Picks in Newport. Harrington repaid his captain’s faith by winning two points in the company of rookie Ross Fisher. In a Ryder Cup week like no other, Europe triumphed 14.5-13.5.
Although Harrington’s Ryder Cup playing career ended with victory in 2010, his involvement with one of the world’s most famous tournaments continued. He returned as vice-captain to Paul McGinley in 2014 at Gleneagles and was called upon to fulfil the same role by both Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjørn respectively in 2016 and 2018. It’s clear Harrington has been regarded as a trusted and valued member of Team Europe down the years and they will hope he returns from Whistling Straits victorious in 2020.