Harrington won the Open Championship in 2007 and successfully defended the title the following year before winning the US PGA Championship just three weeks later.
However, the 47-year-old is well aware of the damage a Ryder Cup defeat can do to a captain’s reputation having played under six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo in Europe’s defeat at Valhalla in 2008.
“It’s something I did think long and hard about,” Harrington said during a press conference to announce his appointment at the European Tour’s headquarters at Wentworth.
“It’s possibly easier to be Ryder Cup captain at home, but I realise it was good timing in my career and probably the best chance for the team in an international setting, going to the US having me as captain at this time.
“Then it really came down to whether I wanted to be in the hat and put what is a successful career on the line.
“It is a different element to your career and we know a successful captain is great and a losing captain, it’s his fault. I am putting something on the line going out there.
“I’m well aware that it’s win or nothing, that’s the way it goes. You go out there and win and you’re a successful captain; you lose, you’re not. I’m aware that I could have passed up on this and just kept on going as a nice tournament golfer.
“When you’re a Ryder Cup captain, you’re putting the history of your game – your legacy – on the line.”
Harrington has served as a vice-captain at the last three Ryder Cups and appeared in the biennial contest against the United States six times as a player, beginning at Brookline in 1999. He was on the winning team in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010.
He succeeds Thomas Bjorn as captain for next year’s contest at Whistling Straits where Europe will be attempting to defend the trophy won in convincing fashion in Paris last September.
Harrington, who is currently out of action after slipping on the stairs at home over Christmas and breaking a bone in his wrist, said: “Obviously I’m thrilled to be named as Ryder Cup captain for 2020, it’s not something I went into lightly.
“You could look at this as being a natural progression from player to vice-captain to captain, but it’s not something I take on without a certain amount of trepidation.”
He continued: “I really want to be a help, I want to hopefully leave the European Tour and Ryder Cup in a better place after two years, but I know we are going to a new venue, it’s an away match, we’re going to have on average three more rookies coming into the team and I have to be part of that team and ensure that I find an edge to make the team perform to the best of their abilities and hopefully get a win.”
Harrington was a popular choice among Europe’s victorious team to take on the captaincy and became a near-certainty when Lee Westwood announced he did not want to be considered for the role, preferring to target Italy in 2022.
“It does make my job easier that I feel I have the confidence of the players,” Harrington added. “There’s no doubt I’m excited with the whole idea. We’ve had some great captains and I’ve learned from all of them.
“But it is daunting because you want to do a good job. Thomas has left it in a very strong place.
“I will try and bring that all together and hopefully say the right things at the right time and get the best out of that team that provides a winning performance.”
Former captain Paul McGinley welcomed the appointment.
“It’s a natural graduation, part of the succession plan that has been in place and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve had so much success,” said McGinley. “He’s a deep-thinker, somewhat of a left-field thinker. He’ll be very diligent, there’s no doubt about that.
“It’s a big task. Winning away from home is a lot more difficult than winning at home. He’s got a lot of things in his favour. I think Thomas was blessed with the best team we’ve ever had in France. I think Padraig will be blessed with an even better team.
“And secondly the course is a European-style of course, it’s windy and has a links feel to it.”