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Ryder Cup: Darren Clarke set to dash Graeme McDowell's hopes for Hazeltine slot

By Peter Hutcheon

Portrush favourite Graeme McDowell has accepted that he will not receive a Ryder Cup wildcard pick from good friend and European captain Darren Clarke when the Dungannon man finalises his 12-man team today.

Skipper Clarke must select three players aside from the nine, including Rory McIlroy, who have qualified automatically to play against the USA from September 30 to October 2 at Hazeltine Golf Club.

G-Mac has been on three successful European teams and holed the winning putt in 2010. But it seems his run of playing in four consecutive Ryder Cups has come to an end after he dropped to a disappointing 44th in the European points table. Clarke will go into the bi-annual event with five rookies.

McDowell tweeted after missing the cut at The Barclays at the weekend: "I think I'm done unfortunately. Would have loved to have been there."

A reference to the Ryder Cup which, aside from his US Open triumph of 2010, has delivered the high points of his career.

Although he has been a stalwart of the last four Ryder Cup teams and has played a leading role in the European success story, he never had to depend on wild card selections.

G-Mac's form has been good enough over the last eight years to earn his place through the rankings. This year it hasn't been as he has slipped out of the world's top 50.

Certainly sentimentality won't come into it as far as Clarke is concerned, even though one of his best friends in the game, Lee Westwood, is in line to be one of the three players chosen today.

Unlike McDowell, Westwood has performed well in the Majors this year - second place at the Masters showed that his appetite for the game's biggest prizes remains undimmed.

In an ideal world Clarke would have both men for the experience that they could bring to his team, but ultimately form is more important and there are too many possible selections ahead of McDowell for him to come into serious consideration at this late stage.

The 2012 US Open winner Martin Kaymer is, like Westwood, an experienced campaigner and has gradually been showing signs of returning to his best this summer.

The others in contention for Clarke's attentions are Scotsman Russell Knox, Belgian Thomas Pieters, former world number one Luke Donald and possibly Francesco Molinari.

Ryder Cup captain Davis Love will turn to his eight automatic qualifiers for advice on his wild cards as the United States seek to avoid an unprecedented fourth straight defeat at Hazeltine.

Patrick Reed's victory in the first FedEx Cup play-off event on Sunday secured his place alongside Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker, Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker and Zach Johnson.

And those players will now have a major say in who joins them on the plane to Minnesota, mirroring the approach taken by the last victorious US Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger in 2008.

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