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Published: 10:02 | 30/8/16

Westwood, Kaymer and Pieters handed wildcards

Clarke completes his dozen

European captain Darren Clarke has named Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters as his three wildcard picks for the Ryder Cup.

With five rookies qualifying automatically for the European team, Clarke has opted for experience for the defence of the Ryder Cup against the United States at Hazeltine at the end of September.

Westwood, joint-second behind Danny Willett at the Masters, came close to securing an automatic berth and having played in nine Ryder Cups it is no surprise to see him included in Clarke's wildcard selections.

"Lee Westwood is one of the most experienced Ryder Cuppers of all-time. He has played well this year and week in, week out has been very, very solid," Clarke said.

Kaymer sank the winning putt at Medinah in 2012 and, while his most recent win came at the 2014 US Open, the German has six top-ten finishes in his last ten outings to play his way onto the team.

"Martin Kaymer has had six top-10s in his recent events and is somewhat of a Ryder Cup stalwart. None of us can forget the putt he holed at Medinah a few years ago and is another man I have a massive amount of trust and belief in," the skipper explained.

Both Westwood and Kaymer were tipped to be included by Clarke but the identity of the third wildcard has generated much debate with a number of players playing their way into contention.

Thomas Pieters, meanwhile, has hit form at the right time, finishing fourth in the Olympics, second at the Czech Masters before winning in Denmark on Sunday and it is the 24-year-old who completes the European team.

"Last week I played with him, as I've done many times over the qualification period. When he teed off on Thursday morning he knew exactly why I was playing with him," Clarke told a press conference at Wentworth.

"Prior to that there was a few other contenders I was thinking about as well, but he went out and played unbelievably and shot 62 - one of the finest 62s I've ever witnessed - and he made it look easy. And then on top of that he finished in the manner he started in to win the tournament.

"I'm very pleased and proud to have someone of Thomas Pieters' undoubted talent as part of that team. He has the talent to go all the way to the top of the world."

The decision to include Pieters means there will be six rookies on the team with Danny Willett, Chris Wood, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Andy Sullivan and Matthew Fitzpatrick also due to make their debuts in the competition.

Westwood and Kaymer will join Ryder Cup veterans Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose.

Russell Knox would have qualified automatically had he been a member of the European Tour when he won the WGC-HSBC Champions last November and the Florida-based Scot had the backing of both Jordan Spieth and US captain Davis Love III.

Speaking about the decision to select Pieters ahead of Knox, Clarke said: "These past few days have been some of the toughest of my golfing career, but I'm going to have full confidence I have in the team with us. They've embraced the challenge, they're world class players in their own right and with the talent they possess I have no worries at all about the strength of that team. I'm proud of that team.

"Narrowing it down to those three wildcards has been a very difficult process, but I said that I was going to look to experience and with Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer I had two former world No 1s and guys who bring a wealth of experience to the team.

"Lee and Martin were two pretty obvious choices but the last one was very difficult. I had a few different people in my mind. Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald had an argument with their experience to join that, but they would admit that they have not been on top of their game.

"It came down to Thomas Pieters and Russell Knox, and the phone call to Russell was one of the hardest I have ever had to make. But, given his form, I found it impossible to leave Thomas out."

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