Padraig seeks form; Els, Ricci a team again

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - GRANT WIN­TER

IRE­LAND has a pop­u­la­tion of about 6.4-mil­lion, but there are almost 40-mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in the US who claim Ir­ish her­itage.

So Amer­ica is, well, pretty Ir­ish which the in­spi­ra­tional Paul McGin­ley, who cap­tained Europe to a sen­sa­tional Ry­der Cup win over the US this year, pointed out while in Jo­han­nes­burg this week as a guest of his spon­sors In­vestec.

A veteran of five Ry­der Cups as a player, then a vice-cap­tain, then a cap­tain – and ev­ery time on the win­ning side – the 48-year-old re­called how in the 2004 Cup at Oak­land Hills, he and fel­low Ir­ish­man Padraig Har­ring­ton ham­mered Tiger Woods and Davis Love III 4 and 3 in the Satur­day af­ter­noon four­somes.

A mas­sive gallery fol­lowed the match, and – be­ing so many Ir­ish folk in that part of the world – many in that gallery were Ir­ish­men yelling for an Ir­ish win. “It re­ally spurred on us,” said McGin­ley, “so much so I asked then cap­tain Bern­hard Langer if in Sun­day’s sin­gles he’d put Padriag and I backto-back in the line-up, so when I was tee­ing off on a hole, he’d be putting on the pre­vi­ous green just me­tres away. So we’d have pretty much all the Ir­ish fans con­cen­trated around the two of us.” It worked a treat and, as in the four­somes, the two play­ers were swept along in a wave of pa­tri­o­tism by their coun­try­men – Har­ring­ton beat­ing Jay Haas 1-up and McGin­ley dump­ing Ste­wart Cink 3 and 2 as Europe thumped the US 18.5-9.5.

Har­ring­ton, win­ner of three Ma­jors, gets a chance to show his class in South Africa this week­end in the char­ity-driven Gary Player In­vi­ta­tional at Lost City on Satur­day and Sun­day along­side fel­low Ma­jor win­ner Ian Woos­nam. Here are two leg­ends of the game, and it should be a cracker, par­tic­u­larly if there’s a few fel­lows with names like Paddy in the gallery urg­ing Padraig on.

From the Lost City to Dubai and the Euro­pean Tour’s sea­son-end­ing DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship be­gin­ning to­day. The Race to Dubai has al­ready been won by world No1 Rory McIlroy and he is there hop­ing to add another vic­tory to a dream sea­son which saw him win both the Bri­tish Open and the US PGA.

Ernie Els heads a nine-player SA con­tin­gent in the 60-man lineup, equat­ing to the top 60 per­form- ers on the Euro­pean Tour this year.

The oth­ers are Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Hen­nie Otto, George Coet­zee, Bran­den Grace Richard Sterne, Dar­ren Fichardt and Thomas Aiken.

Els’s cad­die Colin Byrne is not avail­able, so long-time looper Ricci Roberts is on his bag again this week. “This must be our sixth or sev­enth come­back!” ex­claimed Els. “But se­ri­ously, it’ll be nice to have Ricci by my side again. He’s like a brother to me and we’ve had a lot of great times to­gether, a lot of wins over the years.”

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