• "Every single one of us said the same three names," said the Scot
• Clarke and his backroom team felt Pieters added more 'versatility'
PAUL LAWRIE | RYDER CUP
Paul Lawrie has explained the reasons behind the decision to leave Russell Knox out of the European Ryder Cup team.
Speaking to bunkered.co.uk, the former Open champion, one of European captain Darren Clarke’s assistants for this month’s match at Hazeltine, revealed that Knox had been ‘one of five or six’ players in the players in the conversation for the three wildcards.
Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer were picked to add some experience to the rookie-heavy side, leaving one spot up for grabs.
Ultimately, it went to Thomas Pieters on account of the Belgian’s ‘versatility’ and impressive performance alongside Clarke in the final counting event, the Made in Denmark tournament. Pieters carded a sublime 62 playing with Clarke in the first round before going on to win the event. That, though, meant no place for two-time PGA Tour winner and world No.20 Knox.
Read more -> Russell Knox call 'so tough' - Clarke
“We had a conference call on the Monday, before Darren made his announcement on the Tuesday, during which he asked us to give our opinions on who the three should be,” said Lawrie. “Every single one of us said the same three names – the three who ended up getting picked. Nobody went any other way.
"Russell’s a phenomenal player" - Paul Lawrie
“Russell’s a phenomenal player. We all know that, we all recognise how good a year he’s had and we all feel sorry that, on this occasion, he’s the guy who has had to miss out.”
Providing an insight into the decision-making process, Lawrie added: “The Westwood and Kaymer picks were pretty much set in stone as far as we were all concerned. We already had five rookies on the team and so we needed to add some experience, no question about that. That left one spot and we were agreed that if it was going to go to a rookie, that rookie would have to be pretty special.
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“I think that, initially, we were all thinking that we were going to have to go with three experienced players but, then, the way that Thomas played in the last counting event and particularly the way he played with Darren in the first round, shooting a 62, that made him impossible to ignore.
“I’ve played with the Ryder Cup captain a few times and you know fine well why he’s there and why he’s playing with you. It’s because he wants to get a closer look at you. So, for Thomas to shoot a 62, under that pressure, in those circumstances, it was phenomenal.”
Lawrie revealed that Pieters’ higher birdie percentage also went in his favour.
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“We all felt Thomas could make a contribution in both the foursomes and the fourballs, whereas we saw Russell as a little bit more of a ‘foursomes only’ type of player,” he added. “We wanted somebody who was a little more versatile like that. On average, Thomas makes more birdies that Russell, and birdies are hugely important in fourballs.
On top of all that, Pieters also had support from some of the more established players in the European team, Lawrie revealing that some of them even phoned Clarke in advance of the wildcard announcement to say they’d like to partner him at Hazeltine.
He added: “When that happens, when players are calling the captain looking for him to pick somebody, I think you’ve got to put him in.”
Paul Lawrie :: Ryder Cup decision-making
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