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Harrington promises ‘pat on the shoulder’ for Ryder Cup players


KUALA LUMPUR: Padraig Harrington promised to give his players a “pat on the shoulder” and make them feel comfortable when he steps up to captain Europe’s Ryder Cup team next year.

The 47-year-old Irishman was given the honour in January after making six appearances as a player in the biennial showdown against Team America. Harrington, a three-time Major-winner was also part of the winning team four times (2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010) and served as vice-captain in the last three Ryder Cups.

But Harrington, speaking ahead of this week’s Maybank Championship in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, said being captain will be a different ball game altogether.

“Even though I have played six times, you learn so little when you play. You are just doing your own thing,” he said on Wednesday.

“As vice-captain, you see much more. Every player will be different in what they need and what they want.

“Every player needs information, but also a pat on the shoulder that you believe in them.

“Each player is individual, and that is the job of the captain — to make sure he interacts with the players and they feel comfortable.”

Harrington’s predecessor Thomas Bjorn, who led Europe to victory last September in Paris, said the panel discussion to nominate Harrington as captain did not take long.

“With his Ryder Cup record, with his Major record, the player he has been over the years and where he sits in European golf, there was never a question,” said the Dane.

“He’s a great choice, it comes at a great time, he’s at the right age. It was the briefest discussion we had.”

The Maybank Championship will be Harrington’s first tournament of the year after he broke a bone in his wrist falling down stairs at his home in December. India’s Shubhankar Sharma, bracketed with South African great Ernie Els for the opening two rounds, will be out to defend his title after a two-stroke win over Spaniard Jorge Campillo in 2018.

Kurt Kitayama is considered another strong contender for the European and Asian Tour-sanctioned event after clinching two titles in the last three months. The American captured December’s Mauritius Open title in his only his third European Tour start, before winning at the Oman Open earlier this month. Big-hitting Belgian Thomas Pieters will also look to turn his good form into silverware, while the home crowd will be urging Malaysia’s Gavin Green to add to his four professional victories. — AFP

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