Thursday 8 December 2016

Pieters ups ante in push for Ryder pick

Phil Casey

Published 29/08/2016 | 02:30

Thomas Pieters with the trophy after winning the Made in Denmark to boost his chances of making Europe’s Ryder Cup team. Photo: Getty
Thomas Pieters with the trophy after winning the Made in Denmark to boost his chances of making Europe’s Ryder Cup team. Photo: Getty

Belgium's Thomas Pieters produced a brilliant finish to claim his third European Tour title in the Made in Denmark event - and with it a possible Ryder Cup wild card.

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In a final round delayed by more than four hours due to bad weather, Pieters birdied the last three holes in a closing 65 to finish on 17-under par, a shot ahead of overnight leader Bradley Dredge of Wales.

Sweden's Joakim Lagergren stood on the 18th tee in a tie for the lead with playing partner Pieters, but lost his ball after a wayward drive and the resulting triple-bogey seven dropped him into fifth place behind David Lipsky and Adrian Otaegui. Pieters was fourth in the Olympics and second in the defence of his Czech Masters title last week to force his name into the frame for one of European captain Darren Clarke's three wild cards.

And after carding rounds of 62 and 71 while playing alongside the Dungannon man in the first two rounds, the 24-year-old could not have done anything more to earn his place on the team for Hazeltine next month.

Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer - who finished joint sixth at Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort - have long been favourites to secure two of the wild cards as Clarke looks for experience alongside the five rookies among the nine automatic qualifiers.

Clarke will reveal his picks at Wentworth tomorrow and the former Open champion appears to have a tough choice between Pieters and Scotland's Russell Knox, who won the WGC-HSBC Champions last November, when not a European Tour member, and added the Travelers Championship earlier this month. The pair finished just 0.04 points apart in the final qualifying standings and, asked if he had given Clarke a headache, Pieters said: "I would say so. I've done all I can and we'll just wait and see."

Pieters added: "He (Clarke) has got plenty of good players to pick from, so if he doesn't pick me, then so be it and I'll work my butt off to get there in the next one."

Kaymer played the final round alongside Pieters and was quick to back the Belgian for a wild card.

"If I would be the captain he would be my pick for sure because he brings something special to the team," Kaymer said.

Slumped

As for his own prospects, the man who secured the point to retain the trophy at Medinah in 2012 added: "I think I've done as much as I can, but it would be another great experience of a golfing career to play four Ryder Cups in a row... it would be amazing."

Paul Dunne was best of the Irish in Denmark, carding a final round of 70 for a nine-under-par total and a tied 10th finish worth €33,000 to the Greystones man. Shane Lowry also shot a 70 to finish on five-under in tied 24th, with Cormac Sharvin signing for 72 and a one-under final tally.

On the PGA Tour, Rory McIlroy slumped to a closing 73 in The Barclays in New York, three dropped shots in the last three holes proving costly.

McIlroy finished on level-par in a tie for 31st while Patrick Reed could afford two bogeys in the final three holes of a one-under par final round to beat Sean O'Hair by one stroke.

Elsewhere, Irish Olympian Stephanie Meadow claimed a good pay day with a top 10 finish at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open.

Meadow was five shots off the lead going into the final round, a third-round 69 leaving her on 12-under, five behind world number two Ariya Jutanugarn in a tie for third. And she recovered from an early wobble to card a level-par 72 to finish on 12-under and tied 10th, well behind the dominant Jutanugarn.

Meanwhile, Seamus Power maintained his progress towards a PGA Tour card next season at the Portland Open on the Web.com Tour. Currently tenth in the standings with the top 25 earning promotion to the elite tour next season, Power was on course for another strong finish in Oregon.

The Waterford man is in a tie for ninth after three rounds at the Pumpkin Ridge club. His nine-under tally left him just two adrift of Chinese Taipei's Cheng Tsung Pan and American Ryan Brehm with 16 players within three shots of the leading duo.

Irish Independent

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