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European Ryder Cup captain Harrington favours neutral course setups

European Ryder Cup captain Harrington favours neutral course setups
FILE PHOTO: Golf - European Tour - BMW PGA Championship - Wentworth Golf Club, Virginia Water, Britain - September 21, 2019 Ireland's Padraig Harrington in action during the third round Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs -
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PAUL CHILDS(Reuters)
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By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) – European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington said on Tuesday he would prefer neutral course setups for the biennial event to reduce the home team’s advantage.

In the Ryder Cup, the home team captain dictates the course set-up to favour his players and Harrington, whose squad will face the United States at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin next September, feels there can sometimes be too much of an edge.

“In Europe, we get to set the golf course up and we set it up every way we can to suit our players. And in the States, we’ve seen that, as well, where the golf courses are set up to be most advantageous for the home team,” Harrington told a news conference at Whistling Straits alongside U.S. counterpart Steve Stricker.

“It’s obviously not going to happen probably in my lifetime, but 40, 50 years down the road when the Ryder Cup is still going along, it will probably be best to have a neutral setup.

“One where there is no setting up a golf course as we did in Europe so that it was very tight off the tee and it made it a real difficult — where par was a good score.”

Harrington was a vice captain at the 2018 Ryder Cup where a challenging Le Golf National course setup proved to be Europe’s biggest weapon as they enjoyed a 17.5-10.5 romp in Paris where accuracy off the tee was paramount.

It was a stark contrast from the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National in Minneapolis, where wide fairways, little rough and routine pin positions drew plenty of scorn from the defeated European side.

But Irishman Harrington said he does not feel Stricker will be able to do much to make the European side feel uncomfortable on the rugged and windswept links-style Whistling Straits course that runs along Lake Michigan.

“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,” said three-times major winner Harrington.

“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.”

Even Stricker, well aware that no American has won any of the three PGA Championships contested at Whistling Straits, knows his hands are somewhat tied when it comes to shaping the course in a way that favours his team at the Sept. 25-27 event.

“Hopefully we have nice, sunny 75-degree days next year at this time,” said Stricker, a 12-times winner on the PGA Tour. “But yeah, you know, when you look out here, it has the feel of — does it not, over there in Ireland.

“The whole setting next to Lake Michigan, it looks like we could be overseas somewhere for sure,” Stricker told reporters before a smiling Harrington playfully added: “It looks like an Irish summer’s day out there.”

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)

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