Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington fears suffering defeat as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain will leave an enduring stain on his successful career.
Harrington, a winner of two Open Championship titles and the US PGA Championship, has been named as Thomas Bjorn’s successor for 2020.
The 47-year-old is well aware of the damage a Ryder Cup loss can do to a captain’s reputation, having played under six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo in Europe’s defeat at Valhalla in 2008.
Harrington has already contemplated the ramifications of losing in Whistling Straits and will ensure he does not make the same mistakes as the Englishman.
“We have seen once or twice in the past – once, anyway – where your captain has done a half-hearted job and it doesn’t end well,” said the Irishman, after his appointment was announced at the European Tour’s headquarters at Wentworth.
“I’m well aware that it’s win or nothing, that’s the way it goes. You go out there and win and you’re a successful captain; you lose, you’re not.
“When you’re a Ryder Cup captain, you’re putting the history of your game – your legacy – on the line.
“It’s something that you’d better embrace because you know it will have that asterisk (next to your name) if you don’t win it.
“I have to understand that it’s very black and white. This is not like being a football manager where I lose this week, I play next week and if I get the sack, I’ll get another team.
“This is a one-time-only effort and that probably even makes the Ryder Cup captaincy extraordinary. You get one and done.”
Harrington has served as a vice-captain at the last three Ryder Cups and appeared in the biennial contest against the United States six times as a player, beginning at Brookline in 1999. He was on the winning team in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010.
He takes over from 47-year-old Bjorn for next year’s contest in Wisconsin, where Europe will be bidding to defend the trophy won in convincing fashion in Paris in September.
Harrington, who is currently out of action after slipping and breaking a bone in his wrist, says selecting five vice-captains is “a must” and currently favours three wildcard picks.
He added: “You could look at this as being a natural progression from player to vice-captain to captain but it’s not something I take on without a certain amount of trepidation.
“It’s possibly easier to be Ryder Cup captain at home but I realise it was good timing in my career and probably the best chance for the team in an international setting, going to the US having me as captain at this time.
“I strongly looked at the fact we were going to a golf course that is at least European-style. It’s an uphill struggle to beat the US in the US, for sure.”
Harrington was a popular choice among Europe’s victorious team to take on the captaincy.
He became a near-certainty when Lee Westwood announced he did not want to be considered for the role, preferring to target Italy in 2022.
“I’ve spoken to the guys, not since (confirmation of the appointment), obviously behind the scenes, most guys kind of expected this,” he said.
“It is important to me that I got that support. I wanted to be a confident captain and I’ve got to believe that I’m the right guy.
“Players are interested in being under me as a captain. They want to see what I have to give, which is nice.
“But it is daunting because you want to do a good job. Thomas has left it in a very strong place.”
Bjorn signed off his captaincy by fulfilling his promise to have a tattoo of the winning scoreline after Europe regained the trophy.
Asked if he would be willing to do something similar, Harrington replied with a smile: “You know, we’re all about continuity on the European Tour. We’re all about continuity.”