Harrington’s eagles cheer Montgomerie

EUROPE captain Colin Montgomerie insists Padraig Harrington’s sparkling form in practice has already justified his contentious selection.

Harrington hit three eagles yesterday at Celtic Manor as both teams began their final preparations for this week’s eagerly-anticipated contest. Such form represents a huge improvement on his indifferent performances this year, which meant he failed to qualify automatically for the team.

But Montgomerie has taken Harrington to Wales as one of his wildcard picks, provoking much debate, and says he has already out-shone his colleagues.

“There are reasons why Padraig Harrington was picked and judge me about that selection on 4 October and not on 26 September,” said Montgomerie. “I feel the criticism was very unjustified to be honest. I know what Padraig Harrington can do and that’s why he was picked.

“He’s had three eagles already. He’s playing the best golf of my team. He’s a world player, he’s won three major championships and the stature of the guy is second to none within our team.”

Harrington hinted he may be finding form just in time to face the United States when he carded a 64 at the Vivendi Cup in Paris on Sunday – the best closing round.

And it seems Lee Westwood, another player on whom much depends but who comes into the match without form, is also rediscovering his touch, after shooting three birdies in his first four practice holes. A torn calf muscle has kept Westwood out of action since early August, but Montgomerie added: “I know it means very little on Tuesday, but it’s always good for one’s self-esteem to start off that way. He’s not played in six or seven weeks and he starts ripping the ball like he is, so I’m very excited for Lee Westwood this week.”