European Ryder Cup side finalised

Ross Houston
August 31, 2016

The choice comes as the expense of other worthy competitors, but none more notable than Russell Knox.

For his wild card choices, Clarke went for experience with Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer and exciting Danish golfer Thomas Pieters was his third and final pick.

The former world number one, who was selected by Clarke, along with German Martin Kaymer and rookie Thomas Pieters on Tuesday, said he was "incredibly proud" to be involved again.

"It's one of the most hard periods in the whole of my golfing career", said Clarke, who added that the phone call to let down Knox was "one of the toughest I have ever had to make". Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke and the Ryder Cup trophy pictured at Royal Portrush GC in Co.

Darren set up a WhatsApp for him and the vice-captains to share our opinions - as well as some more light-hearted exchanges - two or three weeks ago and it has been active virtually 24/7 every since.

"I chose to take two weeks off to enjoy my win and I will never regret doing that", he told BBC Sportsound. I've never wanted to prove someone wrong so badly in my life I think.

"It's not sour grapes or anything".

Knox added: "Thomas has played some incredible stuff over the last three weeks. But if he needs to pull me to one side and have a chat and ask me my thoughts, I'm happy to do that; I can fall back on ten Ryder Cups". "It has sunk in and I just can't wait to get on that plane and be with the team the whole week".

"Thomas deserves it, 100 percent".

"Last week I played with Thomas Pieters (in Denmark) and Thomas knew why I was playing with him".

Had he finished high in that tournament he may have been able to leapfrog Matthew Fitzpatrick into the ninth and last automatic qualifying berth.

But Knox opted to rest up to prepare for the FedEx series - where he is now sitting seventh and very much in the hunt to win - believing he already had a solid case for a wild card.

Kaymer, a two-time major champion and former number one player in the world, hasn't won in over two years and is now ranked thirty spots below Knox in the OWGR, but his play in the 2012 Ryder Cup, dubbed the "Miracle at Medinah" in which the Europeans overcame a huge deficit on the final day to win, likely played a part in Clarke's decision.

Pieters followed fourth in Rio with a runner-up finish at the Czech Masters, before winning the Made In Denmark after playing alongside Clarke for the first two rounds.

Pieters is a big-hitting Belgian who played college golf at IL and won the NCAA individual title in 2012 at Riviera. I had to phone Russell and tell him yesterday.

"I don't think I could have done a lot more to make the team outright, but it wasn't meant to be this time". Would I do anything differently? No.

"And I've played well in some big events, like when I was fourth at the Olympics, so there's no fear factor".

Hitting the best form of his career at just the right time, Pieters made it tough for Clarke to ignore him.

Clarke revealed that Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Russell Knox came close to making the team, with the latter's recent form rivalling that of Pieters to give the captain a selection headache. It was a bit of a relief to get the phone call from Darren.

"It was obvious that he had made up his mind and that was final". It was short and brief.

"I am disappointed but I don't feel angry or let down", the 31-year-old added.

Already established as a betting favorite in Las Vegas despite having lost eight of the last 10 Ryder Cups, the USA team can change drastically depending on what Love does with his picks.

"I wish them all the best and hope they win".

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