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Ryder Cup 2021: Captain Padraig Harrington reminds his players fewer have competed in matches than gone to space

September 21, 2021

A detailed view of the team bags for Europe, which display a player's number in the history of the European Ryder Cup squad.

Patrick Smith

HAVEN, Wis.—These are the numbers: 557 people have ventured into space; 445 have won soccer’s World Cup; 225 men have captured a golf major.

If that seems like a rather random collection of trivia, then you don’t know how the mind of Irishman Padraig Harrington works. Let’s just say the European Ryder Cup captain thinks and speaks as if his brain is constantly in overdrive. And he was once an aspiring accountant, so numbers are his thing.

He came up with some doozies to express to members of his team at Whistling Straights just how special they are to be playing for Europe and their various countries. After the squad arrived in Wisconsin on Monday night, Harrington showed them a 2½-minute hype video in which pictures of astronauts and track and field stars and Mount Everest climbers and golfers are shown in flashing images, accompanied by the number of people who have achieved something in those disciplines.

Then the number of European Ryder Cup players in history is revealed: 164. The message: You are among the very, very, very elite. The tag line for the video is: Make it count.

The message seemed to hit home. Rory McIlroy recalled several of the numbers from the video off the top of his head on Tuesday in his press conference.

“It’s a small collection of people that have played for Europe in the Ryder Cup,” said McIlroy, who is competing in his sixth edition of the matches. “I think that's what brings us very close together, and that's been one of our sort of big focus points this week, is just being here is very special and being part of a European team.”

Europe’s players have their place in history displayed on their bags. Lee Westwood, the oldest and most experience Ryder Cupper with 10 previous appearances, is No. 118. McIlroy is 144. Rookie Bern Wiesberger, a rookie to these proceedings, is No. 164.

“It was very powerful. I didn’t know my number,” said now-10-time Ryder Cupper Sergio Garcia, who landed at No. 120. “I’ve always known being a part of the Ryder Cup team is very difficult. But I didn’t know that only that little amount of players have made it. So that showed us how difficult it really is.

That's why every time I'm a part of a team or the rest of our teammates, that's why we give it the respect that it deserves, because it's so difficult to be a part of it. It's an honor, and we treat it like that.”

For the record, and we knew you’d ask: The total number of Americans who have been in the Ryder Cup, including this year’s rookies, is 188. One more reason for the Euros to feel just a little more special.

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