European captain Darren Clarke set to pick Ryder Cup wild cards

European captain Darren Clarke set to pick Ryder Cup wild cards

European captain Darren Clarke will pick friends and Ryder Cup veterans when he names his three wild cards on Tuesday, according to opposite number Davis Love.

Rookies filled five of the nine automatic qualifying places and although one of them is Masters champion Danny Willett, Clarke has made no secret of the fact that he wants to "balance the team" with experienced players.

That points towards the likes of Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, who finished 13th and 14th on the world points list respectively, or perhaps even Francesco Molinari, Graeme McDowell or Luke Donald, who were 18th, 19th and 21st.

The odds on Donald, who won the 1999 NCAA Championship at Hazeltine, being selected dropped noticeably on Monday, even though the former world number one's last victory came in 2013.

However, the 38-year-old has never been on the losing side in four Ryder Cup appearances and was second in the Wyndham Championship earlier this month.

"I know Darren really well," Love said after his eight automatic qualifiers were confirmed on Sunday as Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker and Zach Johnson.

"He's sweating it out and the pressure is on him to make the picks. It's the most fun and the most nerve-wracking time of a captain. But he's got a great team. He got a lot of the guys he needed and wanted and now he has the luxury of picking guys that are hot and picking some veterans.

"I'm sure we'll see some names we recognise, friends of his. But it's going to be tough for him to make those picks and round out his team."

Westwood and Kaymer have long been favourites to be selected, with Westwood a good friend and former Ryder Cup partner of Clarke who is seeking 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.

Press Association Sport understands McDowell feels his slim chances disappeared by missing the cut in The Barclays last week, an event where Molinari - who has not won since 2012 - also made an early exit.

When it comes to current form, Scotland's Russell Knox and Belgium's Thomas Pieters have the best claims to selection, world number 20 Knox finishing 10th in qualifying, just 0.04 points ahead of Pieters.

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.

Pieters was 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 having carded opening rounds of 62 and 71 while playing alongside Clarke.

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