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Brennan's Brief Ryder Cup debate is gathering momentum for captain Padraig Harrington

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Pádraig Harrington. Photo: Sportsfile

Pádraig Harrington. Photo: Sportsfile

Pádraig Harrington. Photo: Sportsfile

Slowly, but surely, the international golf season is gathering pace. 

The first World Championship event of the season, the WGC at the Concession Club in Florida, is but a fortnight away and soon enough thoughts will turn to Augusta in April and the Masters, the first Major of 2021.

But for Irish golf nuts, one of the huge highlights of the year will be Padraig Harrington captaining the European Ryder Cup team against the USA at Whistling Straits Golf Club in Wisconsin next September.

Knowing Padraig, he will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the European team will have the best chance of success on the Irish Course, yes, that’s the name of the golf course itself, in seven months time.

But has Harrington missed a trick in the way his team will be assembled?

This Ryder Cup was supposed to be played last year, and the moment it was evident that Covid-19 would put an end to that plan, the American side scrapped their team selection formula that was in place and gave their skipper, Steve Stricker, a much freer hand.

You can play your way onto the USA side, and the likes of Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and the controversial Patrick Reed would be in if qualifying stopped today.

But Stricker has only to take six players from his list, he can pick any other six players he wants for the team. And that’s a handy luxury when you consider Tiger Woods lies in 20th right now.

But Harrington has only three picks. He will have to take nine players for his crew, chosen from two lists of players who do well on both the European Tour and in the rest of world golf. Then will come the hard bit, adding three more golfers.

Harrington’s team will be anchored by Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton. The four have just to be able to put one foot in front of the other come September to be on the team.

After that, his hopefuls come from two categories. There are the grizzled veterans who have been there before and know how to win a Ryder Cup. We’re talking Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood here.

And there are also players like Paul Casey, a winner in Dubai last weekend, Graeme McDowell and Francesco Molinari, who have plenty of Ryder Cup experience too.

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The other category is that of the Young Guns, lads who might have played Ryder Cup golf just once before or not at all and who badly want to play this year.

We’re talking about Ireland’s Shane Lowry here, the young Norwegian Viktor Hovland who finished second in America last Sunday, there’s Rafa Cabrero Bello and Matt Fitzpatrick, and Matt Wallace too, and Victor Perez of France and the Scot Robert McIntyre who is now the world’s highest ranked lefty golfer.

Trouble is, that’s 18 names we’ve mentioned for the team and Harrington has only 12 places – and that’s without someone, now under the radar, catching fire during the summer months and playing their way in, to limit the Dubliner’s options even further.

Getting those three selection calls just right will be crucial to Harrington’s chance of retaining the Cup for Europe in September.

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