How Thomas Pieters bumped Luke Donald from European Ryder Cup team at last minute

September 01, 2016

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NORTON, Mass. -- European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke had his mind made up.   Late Sunday, he was still planning to use his third captain’s pick on Luke Donald, with the first two not surprisingly going to Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.   He’d even texted McIlroy on Saturday to let him know. McIlroy responded by telling Clarke that Donald looked good while playing behind him at the Barclays.   It wasn’t until long after Thomas Pieters’ victory Sunday in Denmark that the Northern Irishman was finally swayed by the performance of the Belgian over the experience of Donald, a veteran of four winning teams with an impressive 10-4-1 career mark.   “Darren was definitely leaning toward experience at that point, and then Thomas did what he did,” said Rory McIlroy, who has been in communication with Clarke throughout the process.   Clarke called McIlroy on Monday and let him know that he would be adding a sixth rookie to the team. He then called Donald around noon to break the bad news.   “It was a short call,” Donald said. “It was mixed emotions for me. I wasn’t in the reckoning until [finishing second at] Wyndham and then I became a strong possibility and I think I was a strong possibility into Saturday evening before Thomas had won. If I had a better finish and Thomas didn’t win, it might’ve been a different story.”   Instead it was the same one from two years ago, when Donald was passed over by Paul McGinley. That phone call was tougher to swallow than this one, though, Donald said.

RELATED: Ryder Cup captain's pick Thomas Pieters is a total savage on Twitter, where even his sister isn't safe   In the end, Pieters’ recent performances -- a win, runner-up and a fourth-place finish in the Olympics in his last three starts -- proved too much to overcome for the 38-year-old Englishman, who tied for 58th at the Barclays at Bethpage Black last week and has just two top 10s on the PGA Tour this season.   “I needed to play better throughout season to be more upset,” Donald said. “But there was a point where I had a real chance.”