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Thursday 29 September 2016

Five rookies confirmed for Europe Ryder Cup team

Published 21/08/2016 | 19:56

Matthew Fitzpatrick will make his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine
Matthew Fitzpatrick will make his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine

Europe's team to defend the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in September will contain at least five rookies after the nine automatic qualifiers were decided with a week to spare.

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Thomas Pieters needed to defend his Czech Masters title and Shane Lowry required a top-four finish in the Wyndham Championship to keep their hopes alive heading into the final qualifying event in Denmark.

However, Pieters lost out by a single shot to American Paul Peterson on Sunday and Lowry was certain to finish down the field in North Carolina after a closing 67.

And that means Rory McIlroy, Danny Willett, Henrik Stenson, Chris Wood, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick are guaranteed to be on the plane to Minnesota in search of an unprecedented fourth straight win in the biennial event.

Willett, Wood, Cabrera-Bello, Sullivan and Fitzpatrick are the rookies, although Willett won the Masters in April and Wood claimed the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May.

European captain Darren Clarke will name his three wild cards on August 30, with Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer strong favourites to be selected as Clarke has stressed he would favour experience for a contest on American soil.

Scotland's Russell Knox and Pieters are understood to be the leading contenders for the final place.

Fitzpatrick has been in the qualifying places ever since winning his maiden European Tour title in the British Masters last October, the 21-year-old then claiming the Nordea Masters in June before a worrying dip in form.

"It's very exciting now," Fitzpatrick said after finishing fifth in Prague. "We can look forward to it and get my game in shape.

"I've probably been in the team for the longest period of time. It (the qualifying period) started a few weeks before I won at the British Masters and jumped into the team and I've managed to stay there since then. It's been absolutely phenomenal and I'm just delighted to be in the team.

"It's a great opportunity, I've got my first one coming up and hopefully I can just keep pushing on my game and getting better."

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