Harrington has it all to do for Medinah as Olazabal lauds Garcia

Ryder Cup captain offers encouragement to Spaniard

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The Independent Online

European Ryder Cup Captain Jose Maria Olazabal fired a warning to Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington on the eve of the US PGA Championship that was a lot more encouraging to his fellow Spaniard than it was for the Irishman.

Judging by what Olazabal had to say, and the way that he said it, Garcia can all but make himself available to be measured up for his team uniform. But for Harrington, the pressure to perform well this week was piled on. If the Dubliner fails to push himself into an automatic spot, there seems little chance that he will receive a good news phone call from his captain when the team is finalised in three weeks and Olazabal has to name his two wildcard picks.

Garcia sits precariously in 10th and last place, the trap door seat of those that will automatically qualify for the biennial tussle with the Americans at Medinah Country Club near Chicago in September. But three-times major champion Harrington, however, is languishing in 19th place.

"Padraig has to do extraordinary well here," Olazabal said with stern voice and face. "He's down the list. We've known Padraig, he's a very methodical player. He really works hard at it. I've played with him a couple of times during the year. From tee to green his game has been fairly good," Olazabal said. As compliments go, it was of the back-handed variety. But it got worse for Harrington. "But I think his putting has let him down this year so far," Olazabal said. And as the Ryder Cup invariably comes down to a putting contest, Harrington's participation in September looks doubtful listening to Olazabal's critique of the Irishman's form.

"Three weeks left," Olazabal continued. "If he really does extraordinarily well, he can have a great chance of making the team. But it's up to him." In other words, if Harrington does not qualify and the decision is left up to Olazabal, Harrington will find out that Chicago is not his kind of town.

Olazabal changed the qualification system for this year's matches, reducing the number of wildcard picks to two from the three that Colin Montgomerie had in 2010. But the Spaniard did not seem the least bit concerned that his decision may come back to bite him as not only is Garcia's place under threat but Ian Poulter is outside the bubble, along with Harrington, in 12th place. But the Englishman pretty much got the nod from his captain, too, yesterday. Which is perhaps understandable as he has a fighting Ryder Cup record and has won both matchplay tournaments – the World Golf Championship version in the States and the Volvo World Match play in Spain. "We all know how great a match player he is," Olazabal said. "He did extraordinarily well in the last two Ryder Cups. I am keeping an eye on him. Of all the guys that are not at the moment on the team, he's one of the guys that has the best chance of making that team."

Poulter may as well email Olazabal with his waist and leg measurements and his shirt size. His name will be on the team sheet. As will Garcia's. "It's true his game has been a little off," Olazabal said. "But you've seen him play a Ryder Cup. He's a great team player. His spirit is always really good. And in that regard, I think he's a great asset to the team." As seals of approval go, that was pretty conclusive.

Garcia will be on the plane come what may. "He's proved he can play with anybody and he's done well. That's very important," Olazabal said. "If you are looking at the players to be on your team, Sergio would certainly be one of them for sure." Praise indeed. And then came Olazabal's dour account of Harrington's chances. "You might have to make a few phone calls or have to approach two or three players and tell them face-to-face, 'Listen, you tried hard but you're not going to make the team,' I've always said that is going to be one of the toughest moments of the captaincy," Olazabal said. "But that's the way things are."

The way things are in South Carolina could hardly have been made clearer. Harrington needs to win his fourth major at the 94th US PGA Championship if he wants to play in the 39th Ryder Cup. No pressure, then.

Ryder Cup: Current rankings

Europe Consists of the top five players in the European list, and the top five players in the world list who are not in the European list, plus two captain's picks.

European points list

1 Rory McIlroy 2,859,350.76

2 Justin Rose 2,286,013.74

3 Graeme McDowell 2,257,697.58

4 Paul Lawrie 2,073,367.70

5 Francesco Molinari2,048,671.24

6 Martin Kaymer 1,869,737.04

7 Luke Donald 1,850,039.97

World points list

2 Luke Donald 359.31

4 Lee Westwood 280.27

8 Peter Hanson 173.57

9 Martin Kaymer 172.26

10 Sergio Garcia 158.85

United States Chosen from the leading eight players in the Ryder Cup points list, plus four captain's picks.

Ryder Cup points list

1 Tiger Woods 5,598.863

2 Bubba Watson 5,446.483

3 Jason Dufner 5,383.502

4 Webb Simpson 4,635.500

5 Zach Johnson4,402.544

6 Matt Kuchar 4,320.192

7 Phil Mickelson 4,107.108

8 Hunter Mahan 4,035.728

9 Keegan Bradley 3,382.206

10 Rickie Fowler 3,268.838