Darren Clarke has named Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters as his three wildcard picks for the 41st Ryder Cup matches at Hazeltine National.
With five rookies already on the team Clarke was keen to add experience in the form of Westwood and Kaymer with Pieters getting in as the form player thanks to a brilliant victory at the Made in Denmark tournament this week.
Belgian Pieters, 24, played alongside the Team Europe captain for the first two rounds at Himmerland and shot a 62 on Thursday.
Luke Donald had been widely tipped to get the nod to add yet more experience to Clarke’s side with Scotland’s Russell Knox also a very strong contender.
It’s a tough blow for Knox who has landed two victories on the PGA Tour this season and is the highest ranked player out of those not automatically qualified.
Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell were two others in the mix but with the former suffering a dip in form and the latter not showing enough consistency over the past two years, neither can feel too hard done by.
We run the rule over each of Clarke’s picks and give the pros and cons of their inclusion.
This was possibly the least surprising wildcard pick in the history of the Ryder Cup matches.
Westwood and Clarke are good friends, have been part of Chubby Chandler’s ISM management stable for the past 20 years and spend a fair bit of time making television adverts together.
If the picks were made purely on form over the past two years, Westwood wouldn’t be on the team.
However he did have decent showings at the Masters and US Open this year.
Pros: Westwood is vastly experienced having played in every Ryder Cup since 1997.
I’d expect him to ‘look after’ one of the English rookies this time around – Wood, Fitzpatrick, Sullivan or Willett.
Westwood also brings caddie Billy Foster to the party, a veteran of the Ryder Cup himself and someone who can play a vital role behind the scenes.
Cons: Could be a little under-cooked, not in any sort of form, hasn’t got the greatest singles record.
Ryder Cup record:
Singles: P9, W3, L6, H0
Foursomes: P17, W9, L4, H4
Fourballs: P15, W8, L5, H2
Another who has been far from his best over the past two years but has experience and holed the crucial putt when Europe won in America four years ago.
As a double major and Players champion Kaymer has stature in the game and is a name to be feared by the American team.
His caddie Craig ‘wee man’ Donnelly will also help keep spirits high in the dressing room.
Pros: Cool under pressure, can be paired with pretty much anyone. Knows more than anyone what it feels like to win a Ryder Cup on American soil.
Cons: Has slipped to 50th in the world rankings, a drop of 23 places over the last 12 months. Hasn’t won since the 2014 US Open.
Ryder Cup record:
Singles: W2, L1, HO
Foursomes: W0, L0, H2
Fourballs: W2, L2, H1
Burst on to the scene with back to back European Tour victories this time last year.
Suffered a bit of a dip in form this spring but finished fourth at the Olympics, second at the Czech Masters and then stormed to victory at the Made in Demmark for his third tour win.
He finished with three birdies for a one-shot victory which highlighted his star quality and ability to perform under pressure.
He is the form player, although Russell Knox could argue the same, and captain Clarke has had a first-hand exhibition of just how good he is.
He’s coached by Pete Cowen who also works with Clarke, Westwood, Willett, Stenson and Fitzpatrick. Cowen thinks the world of Pieters and has no doubt passed on his opinions to the skipper.
Pros: An unknown quantity, hugely talented, hits it a mile and in great form.
Cons: Gives Clarke more selection headaches than if he’d picked a Luke Donald or a Graeme McDowell. Takes the rookie number up to six – Europe have never won on US soil with that many first-timers.
Ryder Cup record: N/A