Clarke makes Ryder Cup picks

D-day for Clarke
D-day for Clarke
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European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke has selected Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters as his three wild cards for next month’s defence of the trophy at Hazeltine.

And that means there is no place in the team for Scotland’s world number 20 Russell Knox, who finished 10th in qualifying, just 0.04 points ahead of Pieters.

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.

Westwood and Kaymer had long been favourites to be selected and finished 13th and 14th on the world points list respectively, with Westwood securing a 10th consecutive appearance in the event.

The 43-year-old’s last victory came in Indonesia in April 2015, but he was joint second behind Willett at Augusta National and has recorded four other top-15 finishes from a limited schedule.

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.

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.

But 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.