European Captain Padraig Harrington hailed The Ryder Cup as the event that “never ceases to keep giving” as he and US Captain Steve Stricker gathered mark the ‘Year to Go’ countdown to the 2020 Ryder Cup.
The two Captains were speaking at their first joint press conference at the start of a day of celebrations on the banks of Lake Michigan, with Stricker looking to lead a US team to victory in his home state of Wisconsin while Harrington aims to steer Europe to a successful defence of Samuel Ryder’s golden trophy following their victory at Le Golf National last year.
Harrington’ first experience in The Ryder Cup came in 1999 at The Country Club, Brookline, where he thought his one-hole victory over Mark O’Meara had sealed the win for Europe, until Justin Leonard holed an incredible putt across the 17th green moments later. It was an experience that fueled his passion for the contest and highlighted the twists and turns that make The Ryder Cup so special.
“I did an interview on the back of 18 thinking I got the winning point, and maybe five minutes later, I’ve just sat down on the 17th green when Justin Leonard holed that putt and it was all taken away,” said Harrington.
“The highs and lows were exceptional. You'd never see it in any other event like it, and that's why we love Ryder Cup.
“I think that's why people, not just golf fans, love The Ryder Cup. It's dramatic, exciting. The ebbs and flows in it, there's just nothing quite like it. You get to root for your home country, your home continent.
“Once you play one, you'd never want to miss out on another one.
“I had some great experiences afterwards. We had a lovely Ryder Cup in 2006 when we won in Ireland because it was in my home state, a bit like Steve this year.
“You find every time you play a Ryder Cup is it throws up something dramatic and exciting. It never ceases to keep giving.”
Whistling Straights has already hosted three US PGA Championships and will provide a spectacular test befitting one of sport’s most compelling contests.
“The Ryder Cup is probably the most exciting golf event in the game, one of the biggest sporting events,” continued Harrington. “You need a dramatic golf course that lends itself to spectacular play, as well as some disastrous play. That's what match play is about.
“This is an ideal match play golf course.”
Recent matches have seen the courses set up to suit the home side, but Harrington believes Whistling Straits will need no such tinkering.
“Here at Whistling Straits, this is a much more natural golf course. I'm interested to see down the road what Steve has in store but doesn't look like you can do a lot with this golf course. As much as it was obviously designed and built there, it looks like it's just in a natural setting all its life and it's going to present its way.
“This is a golf course that is just going to test the players on its own merits.”
Stricker, a Wisconsin native, will have a vocal home crowd on his side as the US look to win back the trophy following the 17 ½ - 10 ½ defeat in Paris.
“We're going to have an unbelievable support crowd here. The atmosphere should be much like Hazeltine or even more so,” he said.
“The Wisconsin people from what I understand are very excited to have this event here. The course is beautiful. It's one of our best courses in the State of Wisconsin. Just to be able to play it here is really a special treat for all of us.
“The state is going to show up big time and we're going to have the crowd on our side.”
Whistling Straits will host The 2020 Ryder Cup from September 25-27 next year as Europe seek to defend the Cup and win for the seventh time since the turn of the century.
The race to be part of Padraig Harrington’s European team began a fortnight ago at the BMW PGA Championship and will run for 12 months until next year’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club.