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Omitting Willett wasn't a last-gasp call, insists Darren

By Phil Casey

Masters champion Danny Willett was left out of the opening session of the 41st Ryder Cup as the furore over his brother's anti-American comments hit home.

Willett had looked set to partner Lee Westwood in the morning foursomes as the pair practiced together on Thursday.

But after seeing Willett struggling with his game - including an errant shot on the second which hit a spectator on the head - in a nine-hole match against Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer, European captain Darren Clarke took the decision to pair rookie Thomas Pieters with Westwood instead.

Ulsterman Clarke insisted it had not been a last-minute decision.

"You may have your pairings, but you also have a few different ones in the back of your mind as well," Clarke said. "And that's preparation. And I have been prepared for a few different scenarios with a few different pairings.

"None of these pairings are thrown together at the last moment. This has always been part of what I've been thinking."

Clarke then paired Willett with Martin Kaymer in the afternoon fourballs and, although they lost to Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka, insisted he had no concerns about the World No.10's state of mind.

"I have a plan that I'm going to try and execute this week and Danny is fine," he added.

"Danny is ready to go. He wants to play. He's like all the guys - he's disappointed he's not playing in the morning, and he understands what I'm trying to do is for the team.

"There is no individual in our 12. It's about the team.

"Danny's playing great, he's playing fine. I have no worries about Danny whatsoever, mentally or otherwise. His golf game's good.

"Obviously the incident that has happened has created a bit of a furore, but Danny is the Masters champion. He's a great golfer and he's ready to play and do what he needs to do for Europe."

Speaking before the pairings were revealed at the opening ceremony, Willett admitted his Ryder Cup debut had been tarnished by the column his brother Peter wrote for National Club Golfer magazine, which described American fans - among other derogatory things - as a "mob of imbeciles".

Willett has received an apology from his brother, but admits there will be more conversations about his part-time writing sideline when he returns home next week.

"I've got to be relatively selfish in all of this," said Willett. "I appreciate maybe it's his career but it's also mine at the same time.''

Willett received the backing of Patrick Reed, who was America's pantomime villain at Gleneagles two years ago with his animated antics on the course.

"It's forgive and forget. It's unfortunate that something was said, and not from Danny himself,'' said the 26-year-old.

"I heard the other day that his family were embarrassed; that they were thinking about flying home and that's something that just can't happen.

"I hope for the best for Danny and his family and hope they actually enjoy the week and that our fans don't just completely annihilate them."

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