European captain Padraig Harrington says his friendship with fellow Irishman Shane Lowry made it harder, not easier, for the former Open champion to be selected for the Ryder Cup team.
Lowry held the last automatic place heading into the final qualifying event, but was knocked out of the European team by Bernd Wiesberger’s performance in the PGA Championship at Wentworth.
But the 34-year-old Irishman was then given one of Harrington’s three wildcards for this month’s contest at Whistling Straits, with Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter the other two as former world No 1 Justin Rose missed out.
“Everybody says, ‘You’re going to pick Shane, you’re going to pick Shane’, and if anything that pushed it away from me,” Harrington said. “I’m terrible like that.
“It actually made it harder for Shane to get in the team. I had to keep checking with the vice-captains. You know, I’m not biased here. This is right. Don’t let me be distracted here because Shane is my friend.”
Harrington, a three-time Major champion, added: “It was with the support of the vice-captains I was able to give him the nod and I was thrilled with that.
“There are downsides to this job, having to tell the guys who weren’t getting the picks, but having to tell Shane that he got the pick was a big thrill of mine, that he is a friend of mine and knowing that it was the right thing to do, it wasn’t me being unconsciously biased.”
Lowry, one of three Ryder Cup debutants in the European team alongside Wiesberger and Viktor Hovland, has not won a tournament since triumphing at the Open at Royal Portrush in 2019.
His best result in 2021 is a tie for fourth, with Harrington and fellow team member Paul Casey, in the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, but he has also recorded top-10 finishes in the Players Championship, RBC Heritage and Memorial Tournament.
Lowry was also 12th in the belated defence of his Open title, after the coronavirus pandemic scuppered the 2020 edition, at Royal St George’s.
“I’m thrilled with the way he handled the pressure throughout this year,” said Harrington. “His consistency, his form has been tremendous. He really pushed on during the latter half of the season.
“I believe he’s going to do a good job. He brings great passion. He fits very well into the team and it’s great to have a few rookies in the team.”
Lowry said he is confident he can justify Harrington’s faith as Europe look to make it eight wins from the last 10 contests against the United States.
“I have a huge amount of self-belief that I can go there and deliver points for Europe and that’s all that matters, really,” Lowry said. “It doesn’t matter whether you made the team No 1 or the last man to have done it. I have the self-belief that I can deliver points and that’s what it’s all about.”
© Agence France-Presse