On Tuesday, we will know who is on the European Ryder Cup team. The squad is 75 percent set, but three captain’s picks have yet to be named. Captain Darren Clarke will pick from a list that includes Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Russell Knox, Thomas Pieters, Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry and apparently Luke Donald.
First things first. Westwood is almost certainly in. He and Clarke are old pals, and the trust there could not be stronger. Kaymer is probably in as well. He’s been good this summer, and with five rookies on this year’s team, Clarke will want someone who has experience (Kaymer sank the Cup-winner in 2012 at Medinah).
As for that third pick … who knows. Logic says Pieters, who has three European Tour wins in the last year and took the Made In Denmark tournament last weekend over Bradley Dredge. Pieters is a stud. He took a 2013 NCAA Championship match from Justin Thomas and finished fourth at the Olympics a few weeks ago. He has a pedigree, is long and has the … shall we say … moxie Europe is looking for.
“He has got plenty of good players to pick from, so if he doesn’t pick me, then so be it and I’ll work my butt off to get there in the next one,” Pieters told the BBC after his win in Denmark. “But I’ve done all I can now and I’m just really pleased with this win to be honest.”
European Tour wins in last 12 months:
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) August 29, 2016
But it’s starting to look like he’s not going to be on the team. According to Brian Wacker, Clarke is leaning towards Donald. That seems bizarre to me. I get wanting to have experience, but Donald is not even in the top 60 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained. He has more missed cuts (6) than top 25s (4). Is Clarke really going to put him on the squad over, say, Pieters or even Knox (who recently won at the Travelers Championship)?
The thing Donald does have going for him is that he has two top twos this year. The argument could be made that, hey, if a couple shots go differently at those two tournaments, Donald is an easy pick because he has two wins instead of two runners-up. But they didn’t.
European #RyderCup captain’s picks since 2004:
Rookies: 4 picks, 3-7-3 record
Veterans: 10 picks, 24-9-6 record
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) August 29, 2016
This will be a fascinating decision for Clarke, who will make his final decision on Tuesday. He should probably take Pieters, who will put a little fear into the United States side, but I’m guessing he goes experience with Donald or McDowell.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Ryder Cup: Pieters’ win puts pressure on Darren Clarke for captain’s picks