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Harrington named 2020 Euro Ryder Cup captain, ready for ‘daunting task’

The keys to the European Ryder Cup machine have officially been handed over to Padraig Harrington.

The 47-year-old Irishman was named captain for the 2020 matches at Whistling Straits during a Tuesday announcement at European Tour headquarters, taking over for Thomas Bjorn as he looks to continue a run of continental dominance in the biennial matches that includes seven wins in the last nine attempts.

Harrington has served as a vice captain in each of the last three Ryder Cups, and he became the front-runner for the job once Lee Westwood took his name out of consideration late last year.

“Obviously I’m thrilled to be named as the captain for 2020,” Harrington said. “It’s not something I went into lightly. I suppose you could look at this as being a natural progression, you move on from player to vice captain to captain. But it’s not something that I take on without a certain amount of trepidation.”

The highlight of Harrington’s playing career came in a 14-month span from 2007-08 during which he captured three majors, winning The Open in consecutive years at Carnoustie and Royal Birkdale and adding a PGA Championship title at Oakland Hills. He has won a total of 18 tournaments between the European and PGA Tours and snapped a seven-year winless drought at the 2015 Honda Classic.

Harrington described the captaincy as a “daunting task,” admitting that he did some soul-searching to determine whether this was the right time to take the helm in the twilight of a standout career inside the ropes.

“It really came down to whether I wanted to be in the hat and put what is a successful career, put it on the line. Because you are putting it on the line when you become a Ryder Cup captain,” Harrington said. “It is a different element to your career. We know a successful captain is great, and a losing captain, you know, it’s his fault. So I am putting something on the line going out there.”

Harrington compiled a 9-13-3 Ryder Cup record as an individual, playing on six consecutive European squads between 1999-2010. That record includes a standout performance in 2004, when Harrington went 4-1 on foreign soil as the Europeans set a record for margin of victory.

Harrington was one of Bjorn’s assistants last year in Paris, and now he’ll be the one making the final calls on picks and pairings next year. While the U.S. captain for 2020 has not yet been announced, 2017 Presidents Cup captain and Wisconsin native Steve Stricker is perceived as the favorite to lead the American squad in his home state.

“I know we’re going to a new venue. It’s an away match,” Harrington said. “We’re going to have, on average, three more rookies coming into the team and I have to be a part of that team and ensure that I find an edge to make the team perform to the best of their abilities, get the most out of them, and hopefully get a win.”

Harrington is exempt on the PGA Tour this season after using a one-time exemption for his standing inside the top 50 on the career money list. After breaking a bone in his wrist during a fall last month, he is expected to make his 2019 competitive debut at next month’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.