Europe captain names his picks
Westwood, Kaymer, Pieters selected
US to finalize team on September 25
Team Europe has showed its hand – now it’s over to you Team USA.
Chasing a fourth straight Ryder Cup triumph, Europe unveiled Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Belgian rookie Thomas Pieters on Tuesday for the golf showdown that tees off at Hazeltine on September 30.
The trio join nine players who have already qualified for the team after finishing in the top positions in the European points list.
The inclusion of both Westwood and Kaymer, two highly-experienced players, was expected with the European team already boasting five rookies.
“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,” Europe captain Darren Clarke told reporters.
“The last was very difficult. 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.”
Westwood, 43, has played in every Ryder Cup since 1997 and has won 23 points in the process.
He went unbeaten in 2004 and 2006 and tied Arnold Palmer’s record in 2008 after making it 12 matches without defeat at Valhalla.
“I’m incredibly proud,” Westwood told reporters after being confirmed in the team.
“When I look back over my career, the Ryder Cup has provided most of the very special moments.
“Myself and Darren are very close and I was very relieved and thrilled to get the pick.
“It’s going to be a very tough task. The US is going to be very strong but we are equally as strong – it’s a good mix of experience of youth.
“I think it’s going to be a very close contest.”
Germany’s Kaymer played a starring role in 2012 at Medinah -- holing the winning putt to cap off an improbable comeback victory.
The two-time major winner made his debut in the competition in 2010 and is already relishing another opportunity to lead Europe to glory.
“The first time I played the Ryder Cup, it was very overwhelming,” Kaymer told reporters. “2012 was a very special one for me because I really got to know the feeling of what the Ryder Cup means.
“I really didn’t want to miss out in 2016 and I’m really glad Darren gave me his trust. I am really glad for Thomas Pieters too – I played with him last week and was really impressed.
“I put all my heart in it – that’s all you can ask for and all I can give. It was a bit of a relief to get the phone call from Darren.
“Now is the time to start to prepare and I’m really excited. It’s almost the end of the year but it’s a massive highlight. I can promise I will play with everything I have because it means a lot to me.”
Pieters finished fourth at the Olympics and second at the Czech Masters. The 24-year-old impressed Clarke while playing alongside him at the Made in Denmark tournament, where he won the title after opening rounds of 62 and 71.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia adds yet more experience while rookies Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood also qualified.
US captain Davis Love III will reveal three of his four picks on September 11, and will make his final selection on September 25.
Patrick Reed secured his place in the top eight by winning The Barclays tournament on Sunday, but Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar – who also represented their country at the Olympics – are among those hoping for a wildcard.
Hazeltine National, in Minnesota, will host the Ryder Cup for the first time. Its last major event was the 2009 PGA Championship, while it has also staged the men’s and women’s US Opens.
The competition starts on September 30, with players pairing up for foursomes and four-ball events on the first two days, then 12 singles matches will decide the outcome on the closing Sunday.