Harrington 2020: Bjorn's brilliance provides lessons for successor

Padraig Harrington has been confirmed as Europe’s captain for the 2020 Ryder Cup, succeeding Thomas Bjorn in the role.

Harrington was a vice-captain at Le Golf National last September as Bjorn marshalled Europe to an emphatic victory.

The Dane’s leadership credentials were widely praised following his team’s outstanding display. We look at what Harrington can learn from his predecessor.



The importance of wildcard selections can rarely have been more clearly illustrated than it was in 2018, as the picks of Bjorn and American captain Jim Furyk encountered wildly contrasting fortunes.

Bjorn’s decision to put his faith in experience was handsomely rewarded, with Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey all excelling in an emphatic European triumph, providing a record-breaking total of 9.5 points.

However, Tony Finau was the only American wildcard to earn any points, his two successes representing a marked improvement on the contributions of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau.

Following Europe’s thumping win, it is easy to forget that Bjorn received plenty of criticism when he announced his wildcards, with the inclusion of Garcia particularly controversial given the Spaniard’s lack of form in comparison to other contenders.

Crucially, Bjorn knew exactly what he wanted and selected players accordingly. Harrington, whose experience of the Ryder Cup is vast, must make sure he is just as thorough in determining who is worthy of a pick.



It is unrealistic to expect every pairing to produce results at a Ryder Cup, but Bjorn certainly enjoyed more hits than misses in the north of France.

The ‘Moliwood’ partnership of Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood was central to Europe’s success and Harrington will surely look to keep the 2018 Open champion and his close friend together next year should they both make the team.

Europe’s dominance of the foursomes was also key as they won six out of eight matches in the format that sees two players take alternate shots with one ball.

It was noticeable that Bjorn favoured experience for the foursomes, with three of his five rookies – Thorbjorn Olesen, Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton – used only in fourballs prior to the singles.

The decision to use the same pairings in both foursomes sessions also paid off handsomely, although it was perhaps an easy decision for Bjorn to make after Europe pulled off a spectacular 4-0 sweep on Friday afternoon.

Team USA invariably has a stronger line-up on paper at Ryder Cups, at least in terms of individual prowess. However, Harrington will know the alternate-shot format is an area where his men can gain an advantage. Bjorn appeared to prioritise foursomes in his preparations and it would be wise for his successor to follow suit.



Much was made of the togetherness of the US side that regained the Ryder Cup in 2016, yet that supposed unity fell apart in France as the team slumped to defeat.

Patrick Reed was quick to question the break-up of his partnership with Jordan Spieth in the aftermath of the event, which saw a number of US pairings fail to shine.

In contrast, the mood of the home camp at Le Golf National was positive and relaxed from day one, with rookies and senior players comfortable in each other’s company.

The ‘bromance’ between Fleetwood and Molinari captured headlines, but it was clear every member of the European team – including the captain and his backroom staff –  had fully bought in to Bjorn’s methods, as constant references were made to putting egos aside and focusing on the collective. 

In the news conference to announce his appointment, Harrington highlighted his personality as being similar to that of Bernhard Langer, another European skipper who was immensely successful in forging a winning mentality.

The Irishman may follow a different path to Bjorn, who famously promised his players he would have his backside tattooed if Europe prevailed, but Harrington will hope to gain similar results when it comes to getting the best out of his team.