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Sunday 19 August 2018

Harrington wary of focused Tiger as star has 'point to prove'

Pádraig Harrington says he empathises with world number one Tiger Woods and believes the wounded American will no longer be a shot to nothing for anybody facing him in the Ryder Cup.

Going into his past five Ryder Cups, Woods has towered over world golf, even if his actual record in the event has been average by comparison, and his opponents have enjoyed the luxury of a nothing-to-lose mentality.

This time, however, Harrington, who like Woods needed a wildcard pick, thinks the psychological balance may have shifted.

"I think before that every player on the European team would have loved to step up against Tiger Woods because he was always expected to win," said Harrington.

"So, in many ways, it will be a tougher match this time around. He's still the world number one but certainly in previous years it was a shot to nothing when you got to play Tiger. This year, it will be a tougher match.

"He'll be more enthusiastic, more motivated, so I would be very wary of him."

Harrington has endured a fallow period in his career since his golden spell of winning three majors in two years in 2007 and 2008.

He has not won a title since the 2008 US PGA Championship victory, and Europe captain Colin Montgomerie's decision to pick him ahead of the in-form Justin Rose and world top-10 player Paul Casey, was seen as a surprise.

"This year we had a lot of players who didn't make the team. We could give you a list as long as our arm about why we should have been picked," he said.

"It comes down to personal preference, the team captain, how he sees it. Thankfully, maybe with the balance of the team, the six rookies and with the age profile of the team, it certainly swung in my favour. I'll defend myself, yes, but apologise? Certainly not."

Harrington admitted he was mentally drained in Europe's defeat by the US in Kentucky two years ago when he managed just half a point.

However, he said this time he feels like a rookie and believes, like Woods, the Dubliner will also benefit from having something to prove to the doubters.

"Speaking of Tiger, I assume he's coming in here in a similar frame of mind to me," he said. "I'm sure this time, having been a pick, he will be more enthusiastic about the Cup.

"This week, I was meant to come on Monday. I came on Sunday. I couldn't wait to get here. That's the difference between coming off a big summer, and having a pick and wanting to get out there and do as much as you can.

"If you had won two majors in the previous couple of months you're not too worried about your form. If you get a pick like me, you go out and try very hard in practice to show your form is there."

Harrington has impressed Monty so far in Wales and the Irishman has complete faith in the Scot to make the right decisions over the coming days.

"The teams are so evenly balanced that a lot is going to come down to the quality of the decisions from the captain," he said.

"I think he is the man to make the hard decisions and make the right choices."

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