Pride spurs Harrington to outsmart city cousins

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The Independent Online

Joey Harrington's day off is Tuesday so the starting quarterback of the local American football team, the Detroit Lions, was able to watch his second cousin, Padraig Harrington, during the opening practice round for the Ryder Cup. The pair walked together for four holes but while their families will be meeting up a lot, the two sportsmen have other things on their minds.

"We both have a busy week," Padraig said. "We both have small games at the end of the week. Hopefully, in the future, when we are not competing, there will be more time to meet up."

The cousins met for the first time at Augusta a couple of years ago and have kept in touch since. The Dubliner's knowledge of American football has improved significantly since.

"There used to be a lot more coverage on television in the early Nineties than there is now, but since Joey started playing in the NFL I've looked out for his results and it's renewed my interest in the game."

The pair have a bet to see whether Padraig can throw a football better than Joey can hit a wedge shot. Although a keen golfer, Joey immediately noted the difference with the top players. "It's the way the ball jumps off the club," he said.

But as for who Joey is supporting, Padraig has no illusions. "I think he is hoping for me to play well but that the US wins, which is pretty fair," said Harrington the golfer. "I would expect that of anybody who was born in America but obviously he knows me and wants me to do well."

Harrington, Europe's highest placed player in the world rankings at No 8, is playing in his third Ryder Cup and his interest in the competition stems from his first visit to the spike bar at Royal Dublin. Ireland has a proud tradition in the event and, until Nick Faldo came along, Christy O'Connor Snr had the record of 10 appearances.

"There are photos from all of his matches up in the bar so I was conscious of that heritage growing up playing golf," Harrington said. "Most of my recollections of Ryder Cups have centred around the Irish, Eamonn Darcy holing the putt at Muirfield Village in '87, Christy O'Connor and the two-iron in '89 and, of course, Philip Walton at Oak Hill.

"The Irish guys have done exceptionally well. I was thrilled for Paul McGinley to hole the putt last time. At the time I was thinking he was the guy on our team most likely to hit a great putt and miss, but there were plenty of others who would hit a bad putt and hole it. McGinley is the unluckiest putter I've ever seen. I know because I play alongside him in the World Cup every year.

"So for him to be known now as a great putter just tops it off. Someone asked if I would like to have the winning putt but I couldn't care less. It would not be my thing at all. I would be just happy for anybody to hole it. I see this very much as a team event."

Harrington has won both his singles to date, but the 33-year-old is happy just to contribute to the team effort rather than try to lead it. "It's my third Ryder Cup - I just about feel I'm not a rookie any more," he said. "I don't feel in any sense a leader, that's Monty's role. He has this air of confidence that rubs off on the rest of the players."

Tiger Woods, on the other hand, has not lived up to his billing in the Ryder Cup but, even though he has lost his world No 1 tag, Harrington feels that might change. "His record is not what he would like and he is out to prove something," he said. "There is definitely going to be a backlash from Tiger in the Ryder Cup.

"It's more of a wounded Tiger and he will be very dangerous to play. That might be intimidating - but the whole Ryder Cup is intimidating. You have to be so concerned about what you are doing that you don't pay too much attention to your opposition."

Harrington reported no new twinge in the shoulder injury he briefly tweaked last week in Germany, where he enjoyed a welcome return to the winner's enclosure. There was little time for celebration there, but then again the evening after the victory at The Belfry two years ago was one of the few occasions when large amounts of alcohol passed his lips.

As for players of different nationalities bonding to produce European teams who have won three of the last four Ryder Cups, Harrington has a simple philosophy. "I think we are playing for our tour," he said. "Maybe, in Europe, we are the poor country cousins and are trying to prove ourselves every time we turn up at a Ryder Cup. With a little chip on our shoulders and something we are trying to prove, that's why we are so inspired."