Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, and Thomas Pieters will fill out the European team as Darren Clarke’s captain’s picks for the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine next month.
Clarke, who announced his choices at the European Tour headquarters at Wentworth today, went for a mixture of experience and form.
Westwood and Kaymer, both former top-ranked players, were widely-expected selections and provide experience to a European team that contained five Ryder Cup rookies among its automatic qualifiers.
It will be Westwood’s 10th-straight Ryder Cup while two-time major champion Kaymer made the putt that ensured Europe would retain the cup at Medinah in 2012.
Clarke said they were “very obvious” selections.
Pieters is another rookie and one of the form players in European golf after winning the Made in Denmark tournament last week and finishing fourth in the Olympics.
Clarke said it boiled down to a choice between Pieters and Russell Knox—a two-time winner on the U.S. PGA Tour this season, including at the Travelers Championship this month.
“It was probably one of the toughest phone calls I have ever had to make,” he noted.
Clarke said he always has been a fan of the big-hitting Pieters, who has won three times on the European Tour over the past year.
“He has the talent to go all the way to the top of the world,” he remarked.
The automatic qualifiers were four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, Masters champ Danny Willett, British Open champ Henrik Stenson, Olympic gold-medallist Justin Rose, Chris Wood, Sergio Garcia, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Andy Sullivan, and Matt Fitzpatrick.
Europe is looking for an unprecedented fourth-straight win over the Americans from Sept. 30-Oct. 2.
Clarke was looking to balance out the team with experienced wild-card picks, putting Luke Donald—another former No. 1 and a four-time Ryder Cup winner—in contention to join Westwood and Donald.
Instead, Europe will have six rookies in Hazeltine: Willett, Wood, Cabrera-Bello, Sullivan, Fitzpatrick, and Pieters.
“The talent they all possess, I have no worries at all about the strength of that team going to America,” Clarke stressed.
“I’m proud of that team.”