Sunday 17 December 2017

Darren Clarke continues to mix experienced players with rookies in Ryder Cup practice

Captain Darren Clarke reacts during practice prior to the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine
Captain Darren Clarke reacts during practice prior to the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine

Phil Casey

European captain Darren Clarke maintained his policy of mixing rookies with experienced players as the build-up to the 41st Ryder Cup continued at Hazeltine on Wednesday.

With half of his 12-man team making their debuts, Clarke kept two rookies in each of the three groups which made their way on to the course, but made changes in personnel as he looked to finalise his foursomes pairings for Friday morning.

Rory McIlroy and Chris Wood were in the same group for the second day running and joined by Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters, who played the final round together when Pieters won the Made in Denmark event to earn a wild card.

Open champion Henrik Stenson and Matt Fitzpatrick were also in the same group again alongside Lee Westwood and Rafa Cabrera-Bello, with Andy Sullivan and Sergio Garcia together again with Olympic gold medallist Justin Rose and Masters champion Danny Willett.

US captain Davis Love made just one alteration to his pairings, moving rookie Brooks Koepka into the group of Rickie Fowler, Jimmy Walker and Phil Mickelson, with Zach Johnson switching into the group containing JB Holmes, Ryan Moore and Brandt Snedeker.

Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth remained in the same group.

Clarke said he is almost 100 per cent certain of his pairings for both sessions on Friday, adding: "Has there been anything to change my mind? Everybody's playing pretty well, so there's some tough decisions to be made. But I have my plans and I'm going to follow through.

"I probably guess this morning may have thrown a little curveball in there with not knowing what was going on, but I wanted the guys to go out there and have a little bit of fun.

"It's such a pressure-filled week for all the guys so this morning I decided that I would put the veterans out against the rookies and let the rookies step up and take the veterans on.

"They've got a lot of pressure coming their way and this morning was going out and letting them play nine holes and trying to take the cash off the older guys."

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