We've Got The Best Players In The World - Harrington High On Europe's Ryder Cup Chances

Padraig Harrington says Europe's Ryder Cup side is back to the 1970s and 1980s 'where our top players are actually the best players in the world'

Padraig Harrington takes a shot during the first round of the 2023 Open at Royal Liverpool
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Padraig Harrington says Europe have "the best players in the world" as he warned Team USA not to underestimate Luke Donald's determination to bring the Ryder Cup back.

Previous captain Harrington has handed the baton over to Donald and after a chastening defeat at Whistling Straits last time, the Dubliner says that Europe "are back" with what he believes is a strong team.

"I think Europe is very strong this year," said Harrington. "I think we're back - I believe we're back to the '80s, the '70s where our top players are actually the best players in the world. 

"So I think the team is very strong. I think they're very much in form."

And along with some of the best players on the planet, Harrington believes Europe have the right man for the job as captain - who has a steely determination many underestimate because of his quiet outward demeanour.

"I think people underestimated Luke all his life, and he knows that, too," added Harrington. "You don't get to World No. 1, you don't do what he has done in the game of golf without being hard nosed underneath.

"Just because he's quiet, people don't understand. He has that team right.

"I saw him as vice captain, and he was a great vice captain, very impressed, very comfortable as a vice captain, and I believe he will be a great captain, and I believe he is a great captain.

"I believe he's doing a great job from what I hear and see, and he is, as I said, just because he's quiet doesn't make him - he's not quiet in the team room. He will have those guys ready to go."

Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington

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Harrington says he's "been talking to Luke all year" but has told him it's his tournament now, while adding that "he didn't need me in there as vice captain for sure". 

Harrington also feels Donald can benefit from the same players he had at Whistling Straits - which came at just the wrong time due to the Covid delay.

"That one extra year of Covid, our team went from peaking to slightly off and never could come back," Harrington said of the last Ryder Cup.

"I said at the end of that Ryder Cup, many of these players are going to go on to play their best golf going forward, and they have. 

"You look at Tommy Fleetwood's playing, you look at Matt Fitz won a major, you look at Tyrrell Hatton playing great, Viktor Hovland.

"Europe has gotten a lot stronger in those two years, and the US - I don't want to say that they're weakening in any shape or form, but certainly there's a number of players that were at their peak at that moment."

Meronk's time will come

Adrian Meronk looks on during a DP World Tour event

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Many felt Adrian Meronk should have been playing Rome instead of watching, but after being in his situation himself, Harrington believes the Pole will have his day in the tournament.

"I feel for Adrian Meronk. I think he's a class player and is going to be a great player for the future," Harrington added.

"It's tough for Adrian. There always seems to be one spot at the end that's -- I really feel for him. Lovely player, lovely kid, and he will play Ryder Cups in the future and do well anyway. But it's tough when you miss out.

"I know I missed out in '97 ultimately by about 13,000 Euros. I played with Seve all that summer. 

"All summer I remember playing with him here and all the time, and I seemed to be drawing him, and at the end of it, he didn't really want me on his team, but at the end of it he was very nice and said, you know what, you will have your time.

"I think Adrian will have his time, as well."

Paul Higham

Paul Higham is a sports journalist with over 20 years of experience in covering most major sporting events for both Sky Sports and BBC Sport. He is currently freelance and covers the golf majors on the BBC Sport website.  Highlights over the years include covering that epic Monday finish in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and watching Rory McIlroy produce one of the most dominant Major wins at the 2011 US Open at Congressional. He also writes betting previews and still feels strangely proud of backing Danny Willett when he won the Masters in 2016 - Willett also praised his putting stroke during a media event before the Open at Hoylake. Favourite interviews he's conducted have been with McIlroy, Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn, Rickie Fowler and the enigma that is Victor Dubuisson. A big fan of watching any golf from any tour, sadly he spends more time writing about golf than playing these days with two young children, and as a big fair weather golfer claims playing in shorts is worth at least five shots. Being from Liverpool he loves the likes of Hoylake, Birkdale and the stretch of tracks along England's Golf Coast, but would say his favourite courses played are Kingsbarns and Portrush.