European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal made it crystal clear last week ahead of the PGA Championship: Padraig Harrington would have to play his way onto his team.
"From tee‑to‑green, his game has been fairly good, but I think his putting has let him down this year so far," Olazabal said at Kiawah Island. "As I said, three weeks left. If he really does extraordinarily well, he can have a great chance of making the team still, but it's going to be up to him."
The three-time major winner has experienced a renaissance this season with multiple chances to win. He has rallied from 90th in the world ranking to start the year to the mid-60s at the moment. Why not include the Irishman?
As a reader points out, an incident at the 2003 Seve Trophy (which I clearly missed) might explain it.
Harrington was playing against Olazabal in the final-day singles matches, representing Great Britain & Ireland against continental Europe. On the third hole of their match, Harrington and Olazabal had a minor dispute over whether or not the Spaniard could repair some marks on the green.
Harrington wanted Olazabal to wait for an official ruling if the damage was caused by spike marks - which can not be repaired under the Rules of Golf - or something else permissible. Olazabal didn't wait, repairing the marks. Harrington had a conversation with Olazabal directly after, causing an aggravated concession of the otherwise halved hole. They went on to halve the match, and GB&I won 15-13. Their relationship, however, may have been marred.
"It's not worth losing a friend over, but we had 15 very awkward holes after that - big-time," Harrington said, according to the Press Association report. "I was not trying to question his integrity, but that's what he thought and I can 100 per cent see his side. I certainly won't be celebrating."
Olazabal did not want to delve into it, saying, "I don't want to spend any time talking about it. We had a difference of opinion and I'm not going to waste any more time talking about it."
Three months ago, however, Olazabal said he would like to see Harrington make the team.
“I would like to see some players that I think can be a great asset to the team like Ian Poulter, Paul Casey or Padraig Harrington doing well from here to September," he said in an interview with EuropeanTour.com. “Padraig has shown signs of improvement and I know he is still not putting as well as he would like but he has a few months ahead. I think all those guys should be pretty much in the team.”
After Olazabal codified his position on Harrington ahead of the PGA Championship, however, the three-time major winner seemed convinced he would not be considered regardless of his form leading to the Aug. 27 selection of the dozen-man squad, including two captain's picks.
"Well, he's obviously got things in his mind," Harrington said. "There certainly isn't very much room for a pick for me."