Graeme McDowell. Inpho/Oisin Keniry
By John Manley
Padraig Harrington named Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer as vice captains for this year’s European Ryder Cup team.
“I think he carries a certain amount of authority both in the vice captains team room and in the actual players team room,” Harrington said of McDowell. “The players do look up to him. He’s a solid opinion. Again, just there’s a certain authority.
“It’s nice that he has had a great Ryder Cup career and he has holed the winning putt in the Ryder Cup, but it’s more based on what I would have seen when he was a vice captain (in 2018) and I just felt in that room when he said something, he was spot on and didn’t say too much. Didn’t waffle on but what he said was spot on and perfect. Very important to have somebody there with that sort of authority who has been there and knows it.”
“It’s a huge honor to be vice captain again,” McDowell said. “It’s a huge pressure week and there’s a lot of stuff going on. The vice captains really have to try and pick up the pieces for him a little bit around the team room.
“Being a vice captain under any European captain is very special. But when you’re talking about one of the most decorated players in Europe, also an Irish player like Padraig, who my relationship with him goes back nearly 20 years, so we’ve had a lot of shared experiences together. A huge amount of respect for what he brings to the table and what he’s done in the game of golf. You know he is obviously a hugely intelligent and analytical and process-driven captain, and I can’t wait.”
The Ryder Cup is scheduled for Sept. 24-26 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
WEEKEND TEASING ON THE LINKS
At various points starting on Thursday, the weekend was shaping up as potentially a watershed moment for Irish professional golf. Assaults on the top of the leaderboard by the least likely of suspects gave rise to the prospect of stories to rival that of Jon Caldwell’s win in Sweden two weeks prior. But by the close of play on Sunday, those prospects had vanished like so much stardust, swept away amidst the wind.
Niall Kearney was among the longest of shots to win the BMW International in Germany, but there he was atop the leaderboard after Friday’s round, two strokes in front of his nearest pursuer. Kearney, who has minimal status on the European Tour, opened with a bogey-free 65 and played that way through 16 holes on Friday until dropping his first shot. Still, he got that back with birdie at 18 and was riding high.
By Saturday night, eventual champion Viktor Hovland had asserted his dominance. Kearney shot even-par 72 to maintain a sliver of hope, six shots off the lead. He posted a round of 71 on Sunday to claim a share of 12th place, seven strokes off Hovland’s winning number. Under almost any other circumstance, that would have been cause for celebration, but here was viewed as a massive opportunity squandered.
Padraig Harrington missed the cut by a stroke after rounds of 72 and 71. Caldwell shot 70 and 75 to land another two strokes back, while Paul Dunne rolled 73s to also miss the weekend.
The Irish Open takes place this week at Mount Juliet. Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell, Harrington, Kearney and Caldwell lead the home force, while Tommy Fleetwood, Martin Kaymer and Richard Bland offer a little star power to an event that was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Reaching the top 10 during the first two rounds of a tournament isn’t as much of a problem for Seamus Power as is staying there throughout the weekend. The Waterford golfer got into the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut by virtue of finishing second in a Monday qualifier and carried that form into the weekend, having shot 66 and 67 to place that first PGA Tour victory within his sights.
But fortune took a 180 degree turn on Saturday as Power bogeyed not just the first, not just the second, and not just the third, but each of the first four holes to drop well down the leaderboard. With plenty of golf ahead of him, however, he steeled himself and started getting those strokes back at the eighth hole. When he birdied 15, he was back to even for his round and actually not out of contention. A bogey to finish at 18, however, left him a stroke over par for the day with 71.
Power returned on Sunday with renewed energy and got to within three strokes of the leader after having birdied 15. At that point, he was looking at a top 10 finish, which would have taken him off the alternates list at this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit and put him into the field. But he found water at the par-3 16th hole and finished up there with double bogey. He shot 69 for the round and tied for 19th place, seven strokes off the number that qualified for the playoff. At press time, Power had opted out of the Monday qualifier for Detroit and will take his chances that there will be three withdrawals by Thursday, enabling him to play.
Cam Raymond is another whose playing status is minimal at best, so there was a lot at stake for him in the Open de Bretagne in Pleneuf, France. He responded with a first-round 65 that placed him just two strokes off the lead. By the time he wrapped up Friday’s round, there was serious doubt as to whether he would even make the cut. His eight birdie/three bogey performance on Thursday gave way to a round of 75 on Friday in which he eked out just a single birdie.
Raymond did fall on the right side of the cut line, however, and worked his way back up the board over the weekend, finishing tied for 29thplace after rounds of 71 and 67.
Paul McBride was the top Irish finisher here, earning a share of 14th place, having fired rounds of 70, 69, 70 and 66 to finish eight strokes off Julien Brun’s winning score.
A second-round 68 worked to Gavin Moynihan’s advantage and enabled him to make the cut. Otherwise, he shot 72, 73 and 74 to finish 59th.
Leona Maguire continued her fine recent play, finishing tied for 15th place in the Women’s PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia. While never actually entering contention, she never dropped that far out of it as she combined rounds of 72, 70, 71 and 71 to finish four strokes under par for the event and 15 behind champion Nelly Korda, who has been on a tear of late.
“I played some really solid golf,” Maguire said. “I was very disciplined, went at pins that I could go at and played smart at other holes. Only put one ball in the water this week, which I felt was pretty good. Overall, to have had a total under par around this golf course is something I’m really happy with.”
Stephanie Meadow overcame a nightmare 78 in the first round to post 69 on Friday, yet missed the cut by a single stroke. The 78 was comprised of three bogeys and two double bogeys against a single birdie. She went bogey free on Friday, managing three birdies.
Sean Quinlivan finished fifth in this section’s qualifying tournament for the 2022 PGA Professional Championship, at which spots will be on the line for next year’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa. Quinlivan, the head pro at Piping Rock in the Long Island hamlet of Locust Valley, shot rounds of 68, 70 and 71 at the Huntington Crescent Club in Huntington, New York. That left the former Challenge Tour player six strokes behind medalist Rob Labritz and afforded him a nine-stroke cushion over the final qualifier.
PGA CHAMPIONS TOUR
Darren Clarke finished joint-12th in the Senior Players Championship at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. He posted rounds of 70, 74, 72 and 70 to finish the event six strokes over par and 13 behind Steve Stricker, who established a formidable lead by firing a first-round 63.