Europe captain Darren Clarke opted for a mix of form and experience in his picks for the Ryder Cup on Tuesday, with Thomas Pieters, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer joining a team seeking an unprecedented fourth straight victory.
Clarke said Westwood and Kaymer, both former top-ranked players and Ryder Cup veterans, were “very obvious” choices, but he had sleepless nights over his final selection.
It boiled down to Pieters vs. Russell Knox, players who have won events on different sides of the Atlantic this month. Pieters, who won the Made in Denmark on Sunday in front of Clarke, got the nod.
“It’s one of the most difficult 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.”
The addition of Pieters on Tuesday meant the European team will have six Ryder Cup rookies on the team at Hazeltine next month.
Masters champions Danny Willett, Chris Wood, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick also will sample golf’s biggest team event for the first time. They qualified automatically along with four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, British Open champion Henrik Stenson, Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose, and Sergio Garcia.
That partly explains Clarke’s desire for more balance to the team, and therefore his call for Westwood — a longtime friend — and Kaymer.
It will be the 43-year-old Westwood’s 10th straight Ryder Cup, while two-time major champion Kaymer has played in the last three Ryder Cups and made the putt that ensured Europe would retain the cup at Medinah in 2012.
They will offer experienced voices in the team room.
“Because all our rookies are playing frequently in America now, it’s not quite what it used to be,” Clarke said. “That being said, the Ryder Cup is not like any other event.”