NEWPORT, Wales - Not that anyone could possibly know what Tiger Woods is thinking - including Woods, who a few weeks ago at the BMW Championship questioned the operating capacity of his brain as he undergoes swing changes with new coach Sean Foley - but Padraig Harrington thinks he has an inkling of the pressures the No. 1 player in the world faces this week in the 38th Ryder Cup.
Like Woods, whose abbreviated season is void of a victory, Harrington has struggled this season and is only in attendance at Celtic Manor Resort through the good graces of a captain's selection.
He's a wild card ... perhaps in more ways than one.
"I don't think I've ever been described as wild before, a wild card," the garrulous Irishman said Wednesday, drawing laughs.
Of course, when European captain Colin Montgomerie used one of his three captain's picks on the three-time major champion, it drew a fair bit of criticism. No surprise, then, that Harrington has been energetic and focused in these days leading up to the start of the matches Friday.
"It obviously puts you under a little bit more focus during the week, and brings certain expectations and certain pressure," said Harrington, who has been a disappointment in the last two Ryder Cups, going a combined 0-7-2. "So it's certainly different. It definitely makes you more enthusiastic and keen to play your part and do everything you can amongst the team."
Woods was absent from the U.S. victory at Valhalla in 2008 and went 5-5 in his two previous appearances, both nine-point blowout victories for the Europeans.
He and Harrington both will be making their sixth Ryder Cup appearances, and Harrington, who arrived at Celtic Manor Sunday night raring to go - compared to '08 when he was drained after winning the Open Championship and PGA Championship consecutively - figures Woods will be just as motivated as he has been thus far.
"All I know, speaking of Tiger," Harrington began, "(is) I assume he's coming in here in a similar frame of mind to me, as in, he's played his way into the teams over the years and has struggled with the team element, him knowing the way he performs to do his individual thing and he plays his practice rounds very early in the morning; having to play Ryder Cup and all of these things organized and having to play fiveâ¿¿hour practice rounds at 11 o'clock in the day has been tough on him over the years.
"I'm sure this time, having been a pick, he will be a lot more enthusiastic about the Ryder Cup."
As for the Rory McIlroy comment that is getting a lot of airing out in the days before the matches (McIlroy said he was keen on playing against the world's No. 1 player after Woods struggled at the Bridgestone Invitational), Harrington thought this was probably not the time to tangle with Tiger.
"I think in previous years, every single one of the European team would have loved to step up against Tiger Woods, because as everybody always feels, he's expected to win. It was un-losable. So in many ways, it will be a tougher match this time around. So I'd be ... you know, when he's on top of the world, which he still is No. 1, but certainly in previous years, it was a shot at nothing when you got to play Tiger. This year, it will be a tougher match. He'll be more enthusiastic, more motivated, so I would be very wary of him myself."
Congruently, Americans might want to be a bit more wary of Harrington this time around, too, it seems.
-- Dave Shedloski