European captain Darren Clarke faces some tough phone calls over the next 24 hours after Belgian Thomas Pieters spectacularly birdied the last three holes to win the weather-delayed Made in Denmark and stake his claim to one of three Ryder Cup wildcards.
The skipper will name his picks just after midday tomorrow and while many are speculating that veterans Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer will get the nod alongside US-based Scot Russell Knox, Pieters’ performances over the last two weeks have put the captain in a difficult position.
Having just missed out on automatic qualification when he finished second in the D+D Czech Masters eight days ago, the 24-year old brilliantly birdied the last three holes at Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort for a six-under 65 and a one-shot win over Bradley Dredge (67) on 17 under par.
His 168-yard eight iron to three feet at the last set up one of the sweetest birdies of his career, a third European Tour victory and a selection dilemma for Clarke, who may have to choose one between the Belgian, fellow rookie Knox and outside hopes like Luke Donald, Soren Kjeldsen, Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry.
Asked if he felt he’d given Clarke a selection headache, Pieters said: “I would say so, yeah.”
“It’s a great feeling,” said Pieters. “I really needed a good finish. I saw I was one back walking to the green on 16, and I hit a great shot there but I knew I needed to make at least one more.
Kaymer, who finished tied for sixth after a 68, knows his fate is in Clarke’s hands but he generously called on Clarke to pick final round playing partner Pieters.
“I’ve done as much as I could,” Kaymer said. “But at the end of the day the only real satisfaction comes from winning and I haven’t quite done that.
“If I would be the captain, he would be my pick, that’s for sure, because he brings something special to the team. He hits the ball far and he’s very good on short game and obviously he proved that he can play under pressure very well.
Lowry tied for 24th on five-under after a 70 but it was a superb week for Greystones rookie Paul Dunne, who shot 70 to claim a share of 10th on nine under and a cheque for €33,360 that moves him inside the Top 110 who will retain their cards at the end of the season.
On the Challenge Tour, Mount Juliet’s Kevin Phelan (71) finished tied 26th in the Bridgestone Challenge at Heythrop Park in Oxfordshire where Thomas Detry completed a Sunday double for Belgium when he closed with a nine-under 63 to win by 12 strokes on 29-under par.
Waterville’s Mark Murphy (71) tied 52nd on five-under, one ahead of Moyola Park’s Chris Selfridge (76).
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