‘You have more chance of climbing Everest than playing in Ryder Cup’ – Harrington’s message to players
Dates: 24-26 September Venue: Whistling Straits, Wisconsin
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“You have a far greater chance of going into space or climbing Mount Everest than you have representing Europe in the Ryder Cup.”
That is the “powerful” message sent out by captain Padraig Harrington to his 12 European players at Whistling Straits this week as they prepare to defend the Ryder Cup against the United States.
Harrington showed the video to his team on Monday, on the first evening they arrived at the course, which is on the shore of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin.
“We’ve all been given a player number,” explained Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.
“There have been 164 players that have played for the European Ryder Cup team, or GB&I way back in the day.
“That’s what brings us close together and that’s been one of our big focus points this week. Just being here is special and being part of a European team. Very few people can call themselves a European Ryder Cup player.
“To put it into context, 570 people have been into space. I think over 5,000 people have climbed Mount Everest, 225 have won a men’s major. When you break it down like that it’s pretty cool.
“That’s a pretty small group of players. I’m number 144. Bernd Wiesberger, who’s making his debut this year, is 164.”
Wiesberger, who secured his qualification at the European Tour’s BMW Championship earlier in September, is one of three debutants in the European team, alongside Viktor Hovland and captain’s wildcard pick Shane Lowry.
At the other end of the scale are Lee Westwood, the Englishman who will equal Nick Faldo’s European record of 11 appearances this week, and Sergio Garcia, who holds the record for most points scored at a Ryder Cup with 25½.
The Spaniard, playing in his 10th event, is number 120. “It’s a great honour,” said Garcia. “That’s why every time I’m part of a team, I give it the respect it deserves. It’s so difficult to be part of it.”
“Mine is the smallest number, obviously,” smiled the 48-year-old Westwood. “I’m 118. It’s something to be very proud of, being able to pull on the clothing with the European team crest on it.”
A clearly-relaxed Westwood joked “can we use the word mature?” when chatting about his age, before adding “no, actually mature doesn’t apply to me, either”.
He was a vice-captain when Europe beat the US 17½-10½ in Paris in 2018, but qualified through the rankings system to make this year’s team.
Westwood conceded that as “you get a little bit older, you don’t know whether you’re going to play Ryder Cup again, so it’s obviously nice to be back holding the clubs again”.