Harrington discovering the bond of losing Ryder Cup captains
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — It was the right time, of that Jim Furyk was certain. Left for him to decide was whether he was in the right place or the wrong place when the Ryder Cup ended.
Furyk, an assistant captain to Steve Stricker, was standing on the 16th tee with both captains on the final day at Whistling Straits when word arrived that Collin Morikawa had birdied the 17th hole and was assured the half-point the Americans needed to win.
At that moment, the Ryder Cup effectively was over.
Furyk said he hugged Stricker, and then celebration turned to a moment of compassion when he turned to see European captain Padraig Harrington.
“I looked at Paddy and he said, ‘Well, I guess you know how I feel, don’t you?’” said Furyk, the losing captain in France in 2018. “I do. Shook his hand and said, ‘I understand.’ I think there’s always that understanding of what the other side goes through, win or lose.”
There is a fraternity among Ryder Cup captains, and it is especially strong among those who wind up on the wrong side of the outcome.
Ten previous Ryder Cup captains are together this week for the Constellation Furyk & Friends Invitational, a PGA Tour Champions event that Furyk is hosting at Timquana Country Club.
Six were on the losing side, which includes Davis Love III, who got another chance after a loss at Medinah in 2012 and was on the winning side four years later at Hazeltine.
The final act of the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits was for both teams — players, captains and assistants — to form a line and share hugs and handshakes on the 18th green. Of the 18 dressed in red, white and blue, the two that stood out to Harrington were Furyk and Love.
“They have had tough times as a Ryder Cup captain, so they would understand my position,” Harrington said Wednesday. “That was probably the two most relevant. I was delighted for Steve Stricker. There is a bond between all captains, I’m sure, good and bad. Certainly, when you’ve been on the losing side, you look to the other guys who have also been in that position.”
If there is a small consolation for Harrington, this Ryder Cup did not leave a lot of room for second-guessing. He said he had no regrets, and that his European squad believed Friday morning, and even facing an 11-5 deficit going into the final day, that it could win.
The 19-9 victory for the Americans was the biggest blowout since Europe joined the Ryder Cup in 1979. The Americans had 11 of the top 20 in the world — the exception was Scottie Scheffler at No. 21, who took down world No. 1 Jon Rahm in singles — and they played like it.
“That’s always the battle of being the Ryder Cup captain,” Harrington said. “You win, you’re a hero. You lose, you’re a zero. That’s the way it is. You know that going into it.”
Harrington said Europe would have to find an edge going forward.
“The biggest problem we have in Europe is we’ve really innovated over the last 20 years. The U.S. have just copied us. They do everything we do,” he said. “Until somebody finds the next unknown ... at the moment, we don’t know what it is, but it’s hard to get an edge.
“Europe should be proud of the fact we pushed the U.S. team to really work hard and explore every avenue to make themselves the best team.”
He mentioned the use of statistics, the lineup each session and how to use captain’s picks.
“Can’t second-guess our performance, just U.S. did a great job all the way through and they got their stats right, they got everything like that in terms of their picking,” he said. “Everything they did was spot on what they learned from us.”
And now the three-time major champion from Ireland moves back into playing, still uncertain of how much to play the PGA Tour Champions — he turned 50 at the end of August — and how much time to spend on the regular tours.
He already likes one aspect to the 50-and-older set: There’s no cut.
“On the regular tour, I’m literally strangling myself on a Thursday eight holes into the round,” Harrington said. “When I’m at the level on the main tour where I believe I have to do everything right to be competitive, that is a tough place to be. When you think you’ve got to be perfect in order to win or be competitive, that makes it really hard.”
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