Golf

Ryder Cup: Padraig Harrington pleased to see Rory McIlroy win and hopes for repeat form at Whistling Straits

Padraig Harrington has welcomed back the winning “swagger” of Rory McIlroy and hopes he can maintain his form through to the Ryder Cup in September.

European captain Harrington was understandably delighted to see his star player claim his first win in over 18 months at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship, although the Irishman hinted he had hoped McIlroy was reserving his ‘A’ game for Whistling Straits.

“I was pleased, I won’t say I wasn’t,” said Harrington. “It certainly was not unexpected by me. Rory’s always been an ebb and flow player. When he starts playing well he plays even better.

“For me I know it’s selfish and I am only being a bit facetious, but I wasn’t unhappy with his form because I was thinking he’s hanging onto his form for later in the year.

“You know, clearly Rory can play well all year. The way I look at it is that win last week brings back a bit of that swagger that we all need on the golf course.

“Rory is a very dangerous player with that. Hopefully he’ll be a very dangerous player for at least five more months!”

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Harrington was speaking to the media after producing his own hot form in the first round of the AT&T Byron Nelson along with his former Ryder Cup team-mates Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia.

The Irishman warmed up for next week’s PGA Championship with a six-under 66, with Donald and Garcia going one better in ideal scoring conditions at a “generous” TPC Craig Ranch in Texas.

“I hit 18 greens in regulation, I’ve probably only done that a handful of times in my whole career,” said Harrington. “The course is generous. With the moisture, the rain that we’ve had it softened it up a bit.

“It’s absolutely perfect. Fairways are perfect, greens are perfect. Bit of placing, so it kind of leaves you shooting six under par like me and feeling like I should have done a little bit better.”

Former world No 1 Donald, who is now ranked 658th, has missed the halfway cut in 11 of his last 12 starts on the PGA Tour and, like Harrington, also hit every green in regulation while making seven birdies in his 65.

“Very pleased,” said the Englishman, who will be assistant captain to Harrington at the Ryder Cup. “It’s been a bit of a tough road this year, but I feel like I’ve been working hard on my game and seeing progress, so I wasn’t totally surprised that I threw in a good round.

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“This year I’ve been kind of chasing after cuts a little bit, so it was nice to come out here, play a good round today, and feel like I’m chasing trophies rather than cuts. But it’s round one. It’s a great start, nothing more than that.

“But it takes a little bit of the pressure off tomorrow. I don’t have to chase after trying to play on the weekend. So it’s a different feeling, and hopefully a more positive one will lead to more birdies.”

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