Sunday 22 April 2018

Sidelined duo play down Ryder Cup fitness fears

Henrik Stenson insists he will be fit for duty
Henrik Stenson insists he will be fit for duty
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Ryder Cup wildcard selection Thomas Pieters and Open champion Henrik Stenson have assured captain Darren Clarke they will be fit for duty at Hazeltine despite unwanted niggling health issues.

Pieters (24) a controversial captain's pick ahead of Scotland's Russell Knox, withdrew from the KLM Open in unusual circumstances.

The Belgian was primed for a defence of the title he won last year, only to suffer a serious allergic reaction to a bee sting, causing symptoms similar to flu.

The incident occurred on Monday when Pieters was playing a pre-tournament challenge with Dutchman Joost Luiten.

Pieters tweeted: "Very sorry to all the fans that are on their way to support me and to the organization TIG Sports. "I owe it to you guys to defend my title next year. Lots of other very talented guys to follow around the course this week. . ."

Pieters expects to recover quickly, and with three weeks left before the European team gather in Minneapolis, time is on his side.

Stenson has his fingers crossed that a slight meniscus tear in his right knee will not get any worse.

The Swede withdrew after round one of The Barclays a fortnight ago in order to have an MRI scan on the injury. He then played the Deutsche Bank Championship last week, finishing tied-41st on four-under par, 11 shots adrift of winner Rory McIlroy.

He has taken a chance on missing the BMW Championship, the third of the FedEx Cup play-offs, to rest the knee, and hopes he can stay in the top 30 who go through to the Tour Championship the week after next.

European captain Clarke will monitor the injury/health concerns, but he does not want to think about having to call up a replacement for any of his 12-man team - at least, not yet.

"I haven't thought about that," said the Northern Irishman.

"If he (Stenson) had told me that it was causing him severe pain then yes, I would have gone down that route.

"Anything could happen to any player tomorrow. But Henrik assured me the next day he'll be fine for the Ryder Cup."

Meanwhile, play was suspended at 6.27pm Irish time in the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick, Indiana due to lightning, and the players were taken off the course. They resumed at 10.0pm and will finish the first round today. Roberto Castro (USA) held the clubhouse lead on seven-under par 65. Graeme McDowell had a 73.

His fellow Ulsterman, Rory McIlroy, finally teed off at 10.23pm Irish time and an early birdie meant he was 20 under par for his previous 70 holes across two tournaments.

He followed up with consecutive birdies at the fifth and sixth but will resume his round today in the hope of maintaining his fine form.

At Mount Wolseley Resort in County Carlow, 22 Irish, including four amateurs, are competing in the Volopa Irish Challenge.

England's Sam Walker scorched around in six-under-par 66 to lead by two from Edouard Dubois (France), Darius Van Driel (Holland) and Steven Brown of England.

The home challenge was led by Rory McNamara on 70, two under par. Cormac Sharvin was next best of the Irish at one under.

On the European Tour, England's Ben Evans shot 65, six under par, to lead the KLM Open from a group of five players on five under.

Michael Hoey filed a 69. Paul Dunne shot 74, and Peter Lawrie carded 76.

KLM Open

Live, Sky Sports 4, 10.30am

BMW Championship

Live, Sky Sports 3, 2.0pm

Irish Independent

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