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• Darren Clarke names his three Ryder Cup wildcard picks
• Goes for experience with Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer
• Thomas Pieters’ form is rewarded – edging out Russell Knox
Darren Clarke has named Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters as his three wildcard picks for the upcoming Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.
Having admitted in the build-up he was looking to add experience to a rookie-heavy team, close friend and veteran of nine matches Westwood was always an obvious choice, while Kaymer has never been on the losing side in three appearances.
“He’s going to bring everything” – Clarke on Westwood
“In Lee Westwood I have one of most experienced Ryder Cuppers of all-time,” Clarke told the media at the European Tour’s HQ at Wentworth. “He’s going to bring everything. We’ve been best friends for a very long time – but I haven’t selected him because of that. He has the game, experience and knowledge to deal with the team room. When he speaks, everybody listens.
“Martin Kaymer is also somewhat of a Ryder Cup stalwart and another man I have enormous trust in.”
Pieters, meanwhile, is the sixth rookie to make up the European team – the same number of which were in Colin Montgomerie’s victorious team at Celtic Manor in 2010 – and comes off the back of an excellent run of form culminating in his win at the Made in Denmark on Sunday.
“Last week I played with Thomas and knew why I was playing with him,” he added. “He played unbelievable, shot one of the finest 62s I’ve ever seen and, on top of that, won the tournament.”
It does, however, mean no room for world No.20 Russell Knox, twice a winner on the PGA Tour this season. Yesterday afternoon, it was also strongly rumoured that Luke Donald would be in the team instead of either Knox or Pieters after the Englishman’s odds with bookmaker William Hill plummeted.
Ryder Cup debut: 1997
Ryder Cup record: 20-15-6
European Points List rank: 15
World Points List rank: 14
World ranking: 46
Veteran Westwood will make his tenth Ryder Cup appearance at Hazeltine, just one behind Sir Nick Faldo’s record of 11, having played in every single one of the biennial matches since making his debut at Valderrama in 1997.
The Englishman enjoyed a T2 finish at this year’s Masters and is currently fourth on the list of most points won by European players at the Ryder Cup, only two points shy of Faldo’s haul of 25.
Ryder Cup debut: 2010
Ryder Cup record: 4-3-3
European Points List rank: 11
World Points List rank: 13
World ranking: 50
Kaymer, meanwhile, will be playing in his fourth Ryder Cup and, after making his debut under Colin Montgomerie at Celtic Manor in 2010, he has never been on the losing side.
The two-time major winner sunk the winning putt under intense pressure at Medinah in 2012 and he has enjoyed an impressive season on the European Tour without tasting victory, recording six top tens and eight top 15s in his last ten starts, including a T7 finish at the US PGA Championship.
Ryder Cup debut: 2016
Ryder Cup record: N/A
European Points List rank: 9
World Points List rank: 11
World ranking: 41
Only the second Belgian to play in the biennial event after Nicolas Colsaerts at Medinah in 2012, Pieters seized his opportunity in front of Darren Clarke by winning the Made in Denmark, which came off the back of a fourth-placed finish at the Olympics and being runner-up at the Czech Masters.
Pieters matched the course record playing alongside Clarke on the opening day and continued that stellar form for the remainder of the tournament. His inclusion is tough on Russell Knox, who would’ve qualified automatically for the team had points counted from his WGC-HSBC Champions win in November.
Ryder Cup wildcard picks :: Your thoughts
What do you think of captain Darren Clarke’s three wildcard picks? Leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.
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