Ryder Cup: Graeme McDowell 'gutted' as Darren Clarke names wild cards Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell has said he is "gutted" not to have made Darren Clarke's final line-up for the Ryder Cup.
European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke selected Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters as his three wild cards for next month's defence of the trophy at Hazeltine, with Graeme McDowell notably missing.
McDowell took to Twitter after the team announcement to voice his disappointment but said he would use it as motivation to better his game.
— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) August 30, 2016
With rookies filling five of the nine automatic qualifying places - albeit one of them being Masters champion Danny Willett - Clarke had made no secret of the fact that he wanted to "balance the team" with experienced players.
Former World Number Ones Kaymer and Westwood have 12 previous Ryder Cup appearances between them and will add a wealth of experience to the nine already-confirmed automatic qualifiers, while Pieters’ stunning recent form, which culminated in his impressive victory at last week’s Made in Denmark, is rewarded with a rookie appearance in Minnesota next month.
Kaymer's most recent win came when he claimed his second major title in the 2014 US Open, but six top-10s in his last 12 events - including sixth in the final event in Denmark - is coupled with experience of Europe's last three Ryder Cup wins, including securing the point which retained the trophy at Medinah.
Clarke said: “In Lee and Martin, I've got two former World Number Ones and guys who bring a wealth of experience to the team. It's just not about playing, it's about the dynamic of the team room and that's involved in it.
“And then I've always been a huge Thomas Pieters fan from when I first witnessed how he hits the golf ball and how he plays. The manner which he's played golf these past few tournaments - fourth in the Olympics, to go to the Czech Masters and get beaten with a birdie on last green; and then last week to do what he did, to birdie the last three holes to win the tournament in the fashion that he did – that just impressed me so much that I found it impossible to leave him off the team.”
Since making his debut in the 1997 contest at Valderrama, Westwood has been an ever-present in The Ryder Cup, having played a part in seven winning European teams during that period. The 43 year old has contributed 23 points to Europe’s cause, winning 20 of his 41 matches, and requires just two points at Hazeltine National to equal Faldo’s Ryder Cup record haul of 25 points.
Westwood said “I’m incredibly proud. When I look back over my career, The Ryder Cup has provided most of the very special moments and it is something that I love looking back on. Darren knows first- hand what I can do in The Ryder Cup and what I can bring. It was great to get the call yesterday and get a pick. Darren and I are very close and I didn't want to have to put him in a position to pick me - I would have liked to have played my way on – but obviously I was very relieved and thrilled at the same time to get the pick.”
This means there is no place in the team for Scotland's Russell Knox who finished 10th in qualifying. Knox would have qualified if he had been a European Tour member when he won the WGC-HSBC Champions last November and boosted his case by adding the Travelers Championship earlier this month.
Pieters' recent form proved irresistible after he finished fourth in the Olympics and second in the defence of his Czech Masters title the following week, before winning in Denmark on Sunday. The 24-year-old had carded opening rounds of 62 and 71 while playing alongside Clarke.
Pieters said: “The last couple of days have been a little bit crazy, especially closing out the tournament like I did on Sunday, I was just really proud of myself winning another tournament - you try to win tournaments every week and to do it at that point, with a little bit of pressure on me, was very satisfying.
I can't wait to actually tee it up and give it a 110 per cent and earn points. It feels pretty cool to be in the team. It has sunk in and I just can't wait to get on that plane and be with the team the whole week.”