Darren Clarke announces Westwood, Kaymer & Pieters as wildcard picks
Darren Clarke has announced Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters as his Captain’s picks for the European Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine.
For Westwood, this will be his 10th consecutive appearance at the contest, while Kaymer earns his fourth straight cap as Clarke opts to add much-needed experience to his line-up.
Pieters becomes the sixth rookie in the European team after a wonderful run of form in recent weeks – finishing fourth at the Olympic Games before just missing out on successfully defending his Czech Masters title.
The Belgian was integral in the impressive win in last week's Made In Denmark, where he shot 62 playing alongside Clarke in the opening round and birdied the final three holes on Sunday to pip Bradley Dredge by a single stroke.
However, there was disappointment for Russell Knox, who misses out despite being the highest-ranked European of the non-qualifiers (20th), while Luke Donald’s hopes of making a return to the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2012 also came up short.
Clarke confirmed his team during a press conference at the European Tour's Wentworth headquarters, declaring himself "proud" of the 12 that will bid to win the Ryder Cup for an unprecedented fourth consecutive time.
"These past few days have been some of the toughest of my golfing career, but I'm going to have full confidence I have in the team with us," Clarke said.
"They've embraced the challenge, they're world class players in their own right and with the talent they possess I have no worries at all about the strength of that team. I'm proud of that team.
"It came down to Thomas Pieters and Russell Knox, and the phone call to Russell was one of the hardest I have ever had to make. But, given his form, I found it impossible to leave Thomas out.
"Last week I played with him, as I've done many times over the qualification period. When he teed off on Thursday morning he knew exactly why I was playing with him.
"Prior to that there was a few other contenders I was thinking about as well, but he went out and played unbelievably and shot 62 - one of the finest 62s I've ever witnessed - and he made it look easy. And then on top of that he finished in the manner he started in to win the tournament.
"I'm very pleased and proud to have someone of Thomas Pieters' undoubted talent as part of that team. He has the talent to go all the way to the top of the world.
"Narrowing it down to those three wildcards has been a very difficult process, but I said that I was going to look to experience and with Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer I had two former world No 1s.
"The last one was very difficult. Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald had an argument with their experience to join that, but they would admit that they have not been on top of their game.
"In Lee Westwood, I've got one of the most experienced Ryder Cuppers of all-time. He has played well this year and week in, week out has been very, very solid.
"Martin Kaymer has had six top-10s in his recent events and is somewhat of a Ryder Cup stalwart. None of us can forget the putt he holed at Medinah a few years ago and is another man I have a massive amount of trust and belief in."