Padraig Harrington: Seve’s spirit still motivates us, 100% we have a point to prove

Europe’s Ryder Cup captain chatted to Planet Sport about how the renaissance of the match four decades ago still resonates this week.

It's impossible to think of the renaissance of European Ryder Cup golf in the 1980s and not have an immediate spool of visuals spinning through your mind.

A grinning Sam Torrance with his arms spread wide in celebration, Jose Maria Olazabal dancing on the green, Christy O'Connor Jr.'s emotionally drained signing of the cross.

But once you think of Severiano Ballesteros, he dominates: the imperious strut, the shuddering fist pump, the raw intensity of that dark-eyed stare.

Behind it all was a furious desire to defeat the Americans who he perceived - most often correctly, sometimes errantly - were determined to belittle, and discriminate against, his golf.

The genius of the 1980s revival was that Tony Jacklin, who had endured similar slights in America, urged and cajoled Ballesteros to use the Ryder Cup as revenge.

Together they inspired a generation to join their quest and that European spirit remains essential some forty years later.

Speaking to Planet Sport ahead of this week's Ryder Cup, Europe's captain Padraig Harrington was in no doubt about the debt the continent's golfers continue to owe those of the 1980s.

"Absolutely, I think about that decade a lot," he said.

"Seve led it alongside some of the best players in the world and, you know, at the time they just weren't getting due access to the best events in the world, even the Majors.

"You could be in the Ryder Cup and not get into anything."

Consider the 1987 team, the first to win on US soil. Five of that team played less than five of the American Majors in their entire careers, two of them not one! Even Sam Torrance played in only 13.

"The Ryder Cup became Seve's way of making a point," Harrington continued. "There was definitely a chip on the shoulder which we've kept and maintained. We're fighting to prove we're not second best.

"It's also more than that. It's European Tour versus the PGA Tour. Because the international players will wish us luck. We're representing the tour. There's an element of us proving that we deserve a seat at the world table.

"Seve led that. 100% we have a point to prove. It motivates us.

"We're playing for the Tour, for the supporters, four our countries and for our continent. That's such a thrill.

"The Europeans absolutely thrive on that. We play for the glory.

"And look, as golfers we don't often get this excitement. Playing in a stadium like on the first tee? Playing amid the madness of the final holes. Trust me, golf is not that thrilling normally. So, yeah, we get a kick out of that."

Harrington is a Rolex Testimonee and the company's relationship with the European Tour began shortly before his Ryder Cup debut.

"I first played in 1999 and it was one of the most electrifying experiences of my golfing life. It was controversial, but it was amazing. I loved it and I always have."

Rolex is an Official Partner of the Ryder Cup for the first time this year and has been the Official Timekeeper for 25 years. In that period Europe has never lost on home soil and has won twice in five matches in America.

Harrington will be hoping the Ballesteros spirit endures again at Whistling Straits, sustained by the likes of Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter.

Harrington on the US team

"People will ask us about relationships in the US team. I know why, I get it for the fans and the media. But it's out of our control and its a waste of our time worrying about it. It's always a huge mistake to make expectations of other golfers and that's part of it right there. Just go through your own processes."

Harrington on unexpected elements of his captaincy

"Well, no-one was expecting an interruption like Covid. That was difficult and introduced a lot of stress. We spent a lot of time changing how it was going to happen, and then it was stressful because we knew it wouldn't work, and then eventually it was postponed. It was tough and it is tough knowing families wouldn't be able to come over. That will be a big miss for the players both emotionally and also in terms of support. I have so much family and so many friends who were desperate to come and for whom this would have been a sort of reward and thank you. We're going to miss them."

Harrington on captaincy changing his tour life

"Ive done a lot of table-hopping at lunch. I've been taking a lot of 15 minutes with players after my round and before, you know it, it's an hour and a half. My caddie's like, where have you been, we should have been at the range. That's an interesting one for the future. Do you go for someone retired from the game or someone still involved? We've got a lot of players coming up who deserve the honour of being captain and it does impact if you're still playing."

READ MORE: Paul McGinley expects Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry to form powerful Ryder Cup partnership

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