Darren Clarke weighs up his limited Ryder Cup team options

Rory McIlroy assured of a place, while US captain Love given four wild card selections

Darren Clarke: the European team captain needs some experienced players to meet the Americans. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

When the dust settled after the US PGA and its massive amount of Ryder Cup points, not much had changed for Darren Clarke. At it had been, and as it still is, Clarke's European team for the defence of the trophy at Hazeltine beginning September 30th contains five "rookies" who currently hold automatic qualifying spots.

In stark contrast, his opposite number, Davis Love III, has seen some significant changes to his likely team.

New US PGA champion Jimmy Walker is guaranteed an automatic place, while Brooks Koepka, returned from an injury, has also muscled his way back.

Love has been given four captain’s wild card selections. The theory is that he can opt for more in-form players or utilise the picks to bring balance with more experienced players to his team.


First three

Love will select three of those captain on August 28th at the conclusion of the Barclays championship, the first of the FedEx Cup playoffs. He will then wait until September 25th, following the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta, to name the final member.

As for Clarke, the European team clearly lacks experience. As of now, there are five "rookies" automatically qualifying: Danny Willett, Chris Wood, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick. Time is running out for players to force their way on.

Rory McIlroy is the only Irish player currently assured of a place. Shane Lowry’s missed cut at the US PGA effectively ended his aspirations – he is currently 14th on the European points list and 15th on the world points list.

Given the number of rookies set to make up Clarke's team, the Northern Irishman will look for experience and, of those currently outside the loop, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer would seem to be in prime position to get the captain's nod.

McDowell misses

Back-to-back missed cuts at the Canadian Open and the US PGA haven’t helped Graeme McDowell’s cause in turning Clarke’s head in his direction. After playing six straight weeks in his failed bid to force his way into an automatic place, McDowell is taking time out up to the Barclays as his wife is expecting a baby.

So then, Westwood and Kaymer, as it stands, are the prime candidates for two of the wild card picks. Who will be the third? If not McDowell, then Francesco Molinari or Victor Duboisson. or, if he does go for another rookie, Soren Kjeldsen, Russell Knox and Lowry come back into the equation.

The European qualifying ends with the Made in Denmark tournament on August 28th. Clarke is due to name his three picks in the following week.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times