Padraig Harrington admitted he would be “devastated” if he was not part of Europe’s team at the Ryder Cup in October.
Yet things are so tight that if Harrington wins this week’s 3 Irish Open at Killarney – and he considers his form good enough to do it – he could move all the way up to sixth.
Nine players qualify automatically at the end of next month and then captain Colin Montgomerie adds three wild cards.
Newly-appointed vice-captain Darren Clarke states that he cannot envisage Harrington missing out, but competition is fiercer than ever before.
An amazing five players in the world’s current top 25 – Paul Casey (9), Edoardo Molinari (17), Justin Rose (18), Harrington (19) and Henrik Stenson (23) – are in need of a wild card as things stand.
Rose has won twice in the States recently, Casey and Stenson were joint third at The Open and Molinari lifted the Scottish Open three weeks ago – and won the World Cup with his brother Francesco, seventh in the standings, last November.
Harrington’s last victory was the US PGA two years ago, but he was at great pains, with Clarke listening, to point out that in the past 12 months he has had no fewer than 14 top 10 finishes.
“I was asked the other day if I got selected would I actually pull out,” he said. “The inference was ‘would you pull out because you’re not playing well?’.
“I’ve had more top 10s in the last year than I’ve ever had in my career, so going on a guideline that most people use I’ve actually had the best year of my career.
“I haven’t won and that’s certainly below my expectations and everybody else’s expectations, but my form has actually been solid enough.
“I just have to wait and let it happen. I do try to be very disciplined in doing my own thing and not being influenced by outside factors – but clearly that one got to me.”
The 38-year-old Dubliner is focusing all his energies on the next three weeks – Ireland, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron and then the US PGA in Wisconsin – and trying to make sure he does not need to be picked.
But, should he still not be certain after that, it remains to be seen if he would do as Montgomerie wants and change his schedule to play the race-ending Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles rather than the non-counting FedEx Cup play-off event the same week.
“My schedule is set to play in The Barclays at the moment, so I’m really hoping that I play well enough in the next three weeks that I don’t have to think about not playing it.”
Harrington’s chances of a wild card would certainly be improved if Montgomerie goes along with what Clarke clearly thinks.
Asked if he could see a scenario where his former team-mate was left out, the Northern Irishman replied: “Personally I can’t envisage that situation. But I’m not the captain!
“We all know how hood a player Padraig is. It would be very difficult to see Padraig not being on that team in Wales.
“It would be good to see him play really well and qualify and give Monty the extra choice of another pick. I think we would all like to see him qualify and we hope he does.”
Clarke might make it himself yet and has already said that if that happens he would play and Montgomerie would have to find another assistant.
Runner-up to Molinari at Loch Lomond, the 41-year-old is 21st on the table, but could move to ninth by winning on Sunday.
Clarke also stands 102nd in the world at present, but is still waiting to hear if there is a place for him in the US PGA.