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The Telegraph

Padraig Harrington relaxed over ‘Super League’ as he plays down Ryder Cup fears

Padraig Harrington certainly looked like a man with no worries as he shot a 66 in the first round of the AT&T Byron Nelson. The veteran shrugged off a five-week break and then, in his role as Europe captain, proceeded to swat away concerns that the Ryder Cup could be blighted by the Saudi Arabian plan to create a Super Golf League. Harrington is not convinced the breakaway circuit is doomed to failure, but rather that no players will sign up before September’s match. Telegraph Sport revealed last week that Saudi investors were looking for signatures to accept contracts worth up to $50million (£43million) a year. The targets include England’s Justin Rose and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, two Europe stalwarts. Harrington believes both will be available for Whistling Straits, as will the likes of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau for Steve Stricker’s team. “Look, it’s a big topic that’s dominating the conversation in golf,” Harrington said. “But it’s not going to affect the Ryder Cup, not this year anyway. I just don’t think anyone will sign up before then. Why should they? They are not planning on starting it until next September. They would be banned from the Tours, from the majors probably and the Ryder Cup and would have nowhere to play for a year or so. Makes no sense.” Harrington fears that if the Saudis do keep pushing on, the issue could end in court, particularly as the SGL seems only to be planning for 10-12 events a year and not the 18-20 first mooted. “It is interesting because you could see somebody playing the SGL’s 12 tournaments and also playing 15 Tour events to satisfy their membership regulations,” the Irishman said. “There could be scope in the calendar for that. But you have to say it was a big move for the PGA Tour to tie up with the European Tour and I agree with everything they are doing to protect their tours, threatening sanctions and everything. However, you’d have to think that, say, the European Union could question the Tours with competition laws and so on.” On six under, Harrington is three shots off JJ Spaun’s and Jordan Spieth’s joint-lead, with Spaniard Rafa Cabrella Bello in a group on eight under and countryman Sergio Garcia on seven under, alongside England’s Luke Donald. Robert MacIntyre is currently 10th on the Ryder Cup standings, just one off the automatic places, and in the second round of the Betfred British Masters at The Belfry he once again emphasised his intent to qualify by right. The 24-year-old shot a 66 to move to seven-under and into a share of the lead with fellow Scot Calum Hill (70) and Richard Bland (69). Another Englishman, Eddie Pepperell, is in the group on six under following a 68. On the first day of the Investec South African Women’s Open — the year’s opening event on the Ladies European Tour — Wales’s Lydia Hall and local favourite Lee-Anne Pace set the pace on two under. The pair are one clear of two other South Africans, Tandi McCallum and Nicole Garcia, in Cape Town. It was a good day for Welsh female golf as, in the third Rose Ladies Series event of the season, Becky Brewerton prevailed in a play-off against English duo Brogan Townend and Liz Young. Brewerton, the 38-year-old from Flintshire, fired a level-par round at Brokenhurst Manor in Hampshire and birdied the second hole of the sudden-death shootout.