Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke admits Graeme McDowell was considered for wildcard

The European Ryder Cup captain named Thomas Pieters, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood as his three wildcard picks

Darren Clarke

Image: Andrew Matthews / PA Wire/Press Association Images

European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke admitted that Graeme McDowell was strongly considered as one of three wildcard picks for next month's competition against the US.

Eight players qualified automatically for the team including Rory McIlroy, Masters champion Danny Willett and Open champion Henrik Stenson.

Along with Willett, five of the eight who qualified automatically are Ryder Cup rookies and Clarke explained that 2010 US Open champion McDowell was strongly considered as an option.

"We've been going through the selections for the past five or six weeks," he told Sky Sports. 

"We've looked at things very, very closely. If we had been going down more of an experience route, then Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell would have been at the forefront of our mind and they were for quite some time. 

"But it came to a toss between Russell Knox and Thomas Pieters. Both of them have been playing wonderfully. Obviously Russell is a world class player and has played wonderfully well.

"But Thomas the way he's played the last three tournaments; fourth in the Olympics, second in the [Czech Masters], [Paul] Peterson birdied the last hole to beat him and then to play in the manner he did alongside me last week, he just pushed me toward his direction."

He continued to say that the decision making process had been a difficult one and that he chose Pieters because of the energy he brings to the team.

"Yesterday and certainly over the weekend was probably one of my toughest weekends ever since I've started playing the game.

"There's always somebody who's going to miss out. Having to come to the conclusions that we did, we were always going to let people down. But with the 12 that we had, I'm delighted. With the eight that qualified last week and the three that we picked, I think it's going to be a very strong team.

"I know we have a lot of youth in there but that's balanced up perfectly by a lot of experience. Those three picks today with Lee [Westwood] and Martin [Kaymer] bring that experience, while Thomas Pieters brings a little bit more of that X factor.

"He is that good and I do think he's going to blossom into a huge star in the Ryder Cup."