Padraig Harrington will captain the European team in the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. The Irishman has the unenviable task of improving Europe’s average record away from home.
Harrington faces a stiff task. In 2016 Europe suffered a 17-11 beating from the US at Hazeltine, Minnesota and it was their sixth defeat in 10 visits across the pond. On that statistic alone, there will be plenty of takers of the 4/5 from William Hill about another home win. Indeed, six of the last seven matches have gone to the hosts.
The 4/6 from Betfair about a US victory is probably more like it. Unsurprisingly it is Betfair who are biggest about Europe at 6/4. The draw – there has only even been won since Europe took over in 1977 from the hapless British and Ireland formation – is 14s (William Hill). Not much fun in that price.
There is no doubt Harrington, or “Pod” as he is affectionately known, has pedigree. He has been a member of six Ryder Cup teams, winning four. And he was vice-captain to Thomas Bjorn when Europe handed out a beating of their own last summer at Le Golf National.
But he will be acutely aware of the difficulties facing the visiting team in the modern era. The talent of the individual golfers picked can often be a secondary factor. The hosts picking courses that suits their players’ style and strength is more important. The other is the, shall we say, encouragement from the galleries and the crowds out country. Certainly the US have led the way in giving their boys an advantage in that regard in recent years with raucous patriotic support.
Over the next two years he will no doubt dedicate time and resources to solving such a riddle. Regarded as intelligent and amiable by almost all those who have played with him and against him, Harrington is well-equipped to make a decent fist of golf’s toughest assignment.
It is no coincidence, however, that there were few bashing down the door for the job. Lee Westwood and Luke Donald were under consideration but, it is thought, Westwood stepped away, preferring the 2022 task in Rome.
Harrington has the backing of Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy. Punters, however, will be harder to convince, perhaps remembering that Darren Clarke, another from across the Irish sea, was the unlucky chap to be in charge three years back.
Although the clash is a long way off, it seems a certainty that the US will go off odds-on. So for those with length patience and deep pockets, fill your boots.