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The Ten Likeliest Ryder Cup Wildcard Contenders For Darren Clarke's Europe

The Ten Likeliest Ryder Cup Wildcard Contenders For Darren Clarke's Europe
By Conor O'Leary
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On Tuesday, European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke will make the first defining decision of his captaincy - what three players will he choose as wildcards to complete the European team for 2016.

It's something that past captains have lived or died on in the past. In 2012, Jose Maria Olazabal chose the out-of-form Ian Poulter as one of his wild cards, and Poulter went wild, becoming Europe's top points scorer. It can make or break a team, and there a large number of quality contenders who are outside Europe's automatic qualifiers with one tournament left.

As of the 25th of August, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett, Sergio Garcia, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Justin Rose, and Chris Wood should make up seven of the automatic qualifiers - with Andy Sullivan and Matthew Fitzpatrick for the final spot. Clarke has spoken of his inclination to take Ryder Cup experience with him to Hazeltine - because five of those players would be debutants.

The Northern Irishman only has three spots to take players, which doesn't bode well for Shane Lowry - who has seven players ahead of him in the list. He doesn't have Ryder Cup experience either, and even though he seems ideal for the format - he must be hoping for a shock to be included. Here are the Ryder Cup wildcard contenders in order of how likely they are to be selected.

1. Lee Westwood

Westwood seems to be an obvious pick for everyone involved. He's had a decent season on tour, is just outside the automatic qualification list (13th on the European Points List, 11th on the World Points List); and crucially has the experience.

You can get odds of 1/20 that he will be a pick.

2. Martin Kaymer

Another presumed pick. Kaymer has looked more like the efficient machine that earned him major titles in recent months, and seems to be approaching form. He's just outside Westwood on both qualifying lists, but he has more Ryder Cup experience than anyone else - including sinking the winning putt in 2012.


You can get odds of 1/20 that he will be a pick.

3. Russell Knox

The bookies favourite to win the third spot, Knox would be a debutant. The Scot has been excellent this year though, which makes his odds of 4/7 more understandable.

Knox has won twice on the PGA tour this season, once at the HSBC championship, and once this month at the Travelers. He's the only player who can mathematically leapfrog Sullivan or Fitzpatrick for the final automatic spot.


4. Luke Donald


Donald was tipped on Sky Sports this morning to get the final spot. On the plus side for Donald, he's got the Ryder Cup experience and pedigree, and he was second at the Wydnham Championship last week. He's on his way back into form after slipping out to 92nd in the world.

But, he's still 64th, is miles outside the automatic qualification, and missed his two cuts prior to that second place finish. He wouldn't be my pick.

5. Soren Kjeldsen

Kjeldsen would be a debutant, but this pick would represent a case of the 40-year-old Dane being the next man up on the list. Always solid, rarely lets his emotions get the better of him. He's been around for years, and that cool streak and his wise head could appeal to Clarke as he looks for experience.


6. Victor Dubuisson

If Ryder Cup experience really matters, then Frenchman Dubuisson gets a boost. He won 2 1/2 points for Europe in 2014 as an automatic qualifier. He is tenth in the European points list, but way down in 27th on the World list. He's got a chance.

7. Graeme McDowell

Another with Ryder Cup experience. His form hasn't been good though. McDowell has mixed good top ten results with consecutive missed cuts - but his fifth place finish at Wyndham shows he can still turn it on.

He's rated at a generous 2/1 shot.


8. Shane Lowry

After his US Open, you would have thought that Lowry would be a shoo-in for the Ryder Cup automatically. It was thought that he would continue his good form and his career year. But a tied 42nd was the first time Lowry made the cut since the US Open - given that there is no cut in the Bridgestone.

He would be a great personality on the team, and perhaps not having the stress of trying to make the Ryder Cup would free him up to play like he can.

9. Thomas Pieters

Pieters is the man in form making a late charge. Fourth in the Olympics showed he could withstand the pressure, and second in the Czech Masters the following week has caught the attention of Clarke. He hasn't missed a cut since the Irish Open back in May - but did struggle at the US PGA Championship. He's the bolter at 11/4.


10. Andrew Johnston

Despite winning in Valderamma, and making a name for himself in the Open - Johnston hasn't been consistent enough to come close to the reckoning. His burst perhaps came too late - and he finds himself outside of Lowry on the qualifying list.

He would be absolutely fantastic for the Ryder Cup though, and his energy and enthusiasm would be infectious and just what the tournament needs - especially with no Ian Poulter around. He's an outside 66/1 shot.

See Also: Guess Who Is Going To The Ryder Cup After All

Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

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