Darren Clarke finalizes European Ryder Cup team

Darren Clarke finalizes European Ryder Cup team

Clarke chooses experience as he selects Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, and Thomas Pieters as his three captain's picks.

anthony-distler
Anthony Distler

The picks are in - for one side, anyway.

Darren Clarke, captain of Team Europe, made his three Ryder Cup captains picks today. This comes only two days after the first eight players already secured their spot on the team automatically. 

Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Chris Wood, Danny Willett, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Andy Sullivan, and Matthew Fitzpatrick all got to celebrate Sunday night as they earned enough points throughout the season to play their way onto the Ryder Cup team. Of that group, Wood, Willett, Cabrera-Bello, Sullivan, and Fitzpatrick are all rookies, and Clarke admitted prior to making his selections that he would be looking to select some veterans in order to "balance out" the team.

Clarke Takes Westwood And Kaymer

Clarke's first two selections did not come to anyone's surprise as he called up veterans Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer. Neither player had won this season, and both were disappointed to rely on a captain's pick to make the team, but both offer Clarke stability on a team filled with question marks.

Kaymer has fallen from his previous World Number One ranking, as he hasn't won in the past two seasons. He is now ranked 50th in the world, but he has shown glimpses of his greatness this season, including a T7 finish at the PGA Championship. He followed that up with a T15 at the Olympic and a T6 in Denmark last week. Overall, he has six top 10s this season, which is a disappointment to the two time major champion, but also shows that he remains consistent enough to contribute to the team.

Westwood's rollercoaster career was never more prominent than it was this season. Playing only 13 times worldwide in 2016, Westwood got off the a great start with a T2 finish at The Masters. He rode that to a string of three straight top 25 finishes entering the US Open, and was in contention entering the final round at Oakmont, but he ended up shooting 80 and plummeting to T32. He had a decent finish at The Open Championship, but finished second to last among all the players making the cut at the PGA Championship. Clarke and European Ryder Cup fans will be hoping that Westwood will be more fired up come Ryder Cup time, and that his recent form does not predict how he will play.

Pieters Taken Over Knox, Donald

The final selection on the Ryder Cup team was hotly debated, with Thomas Pieters, Russell Knox, and Luke Donald all having strong cases to make the team. In the end, Clarke selected the Belgian Pieters, a rookie, over the veteran Donald and the Scotland native Knox.

Pieters was boosted primarily by his form in recent weeks. After just finishing off the medal podium in Rio, Pieters finished runner up two weeks ago before winning in Denmark last week. Those finishes saw Pieters skyrocket to 41st in the Official World Golf Rankings, and that, coupled by his other strong finishes this season, made Pieters a strong choice for Clarke. 

The choice comes as the expense of other worthy competitors, but none more notable than Russell Knox. With two victories and two runner up finishes on the PGA Tour this season, Knox seemed to be a great fit for the team. He has risen to 20th in the OWGR and finds himself in great form after winning a couple weeks ago. Knox would have automatically qualified for the team if he were a European Tour member, but since he plays most of his golf in the US, he had to rely on a Captain's Pick, which he was ultimately passed over for.

The Final Team

(Source: European Ryder Cup)
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