Padraig seeks form; Els, Ricci a team again
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.”