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luck of the Irish Pádraig Harrington mounts Ryder Cup bid with charm offensive

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Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton, European captain Pádraig Harrington, Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia pose while wearing cheese head hats during a practice round before Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. Photo by: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton, European captain Pádraig Harrington, Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia pose while wearing cheese head hats during a practice round before Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. Photo by: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton, European captain Pádraig Harrington, Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia pose while wearing cheese head hats during a practice round before Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. Photo by: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Pádraig Harrington scored his first major win as Ryder Cup captain yesterday by launching a charm offensive to win over the home fans by decking out the team in Green Bay Packers colours and getting them to hurl novelty “cheesehead” foam hats into the crowd.

This ostensibly trivial move was a move planned nearly two years in advance, and it’s a sign the Dubliner has left little to chance for what is already an impressive looking campaign.

No curveballs have come his way so far, but he had to admit that he’s been pleasantly surprised by how well some of his team have reacted to the environment, singling out rookie Viktor Hovland for praise.

The Norwegian is one of the stars on this European team, and while it would be tempting to hope you have an angry Viking on your side, Harrington is thrilled the man from Oslo has turned out to be the life and soul of the party.

“It’s hard to believe he could exceed it, but he’s been brilliant,” Harrington said when asked if any of his troops had exceeded his expectations. “Bernd (Wiesberger) is very relaxed, and obviously, Shane is right on expectation. They’re the rookies in the team. The other guys, I knew what to expect. They’ve been great.”

Hovland is tipped to play in all five sessions, and Harrington is overjoyed such a player has turned out to be an ebullient presence.

“He’s just great to be around,” he said. “He’s at the centre of a lot of the banter and fun, and yeah, he’s excellent, I’ve got to say. We kind of knew that about Viktor, but Tyrell was that guy in 2018, and you kind of see the personality on the golf course, but his personality in the locker room is completely different.
Ryder Cups are won and lost on team-room chemistry and while wearing home town colours and throwing foam “cheeseheads” into the crowd might seem a trivial move, it’s straight out of the Bernhard Langer playbook from Detroit in 2004

“Look, the crowds are great,” Harrington said of the battle for crowd empathy ahead of a match where the USA will enjoy 98pc support and 100pc of the pressure to deliver on home soil.

“The Wisconsin fans are very appreciative, so we want to show our appreciation back,” Harrington said. “It’s nice. We think the colours turned out nice. We think the outfit looks really good, and I think the players are pretty stoked out there that they’re doing something to show their respect for the local state we’re in.”

Much is made about the potentially hostile US crowd, but Europe knows it’s a two-edged sword for Steve Stricker.

“It is an interesting one, there’s no doubt,” said Harrington. “Most of the focus for us coming in is the fact that it is going to be 90/10, 80/20 [in fan support]. As I’ve said all along, Europe would rather play in front of 40,000 Americans than zero fans. But maybe when we got here, it has changed a little bit. You can see that there’s expectation and pressure from the fans going the other way.

“They have a new strategy. So there’s no doubt, the home captain has to deal with pressure and stress. But it’s not like we don’t have to deal with it, too. There’s a little bit added, no doubt about it. I suppose we just have to wait and see.”

As for the decidedly Irish weather – cool and breezy yesterday – Harrington insisted Europe didn’t need meteorological help.

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“Yeah, maybe there is a little bit of an advantage for us if it does go that way, but as I’ve always said, we really have probably our best team ever of ball-strikers, so we’re not going to be hiding any players or anything like that. We are not relying on conditions to give us the edge.”



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