Golden Rose backs Ryder rookie Pieters

Justin Rose (Getty Images)
Justin Rose (Getty Images)

Hong Kong - Olympic gold medallist Justin Rose gave Ryder Cup rookie Thomas Pieters a ringing endorsement on Wednesday after the big-hitting Belgian was picked for the biennial match against the US next month.

"The really difficult decision was choosing Thomas Pieters over Russell Knox, two guys who are in form, two guys who deserve their place in the team," Rose told a news teleconference, as he confirmed he would defend his Hong Kong Open title in December.

"Choosing one of them was always going to be very, very difficult but I think what Thomas has shown Darren (Clarke) in the last few weeks has been incredible," added Rose.

Europe's Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke announced England's Lee Westwood, Germany's Martin Kaymer and Pieters as his three wildcards on Tuesday.

Clarke had been widely expected to turn to experienced Ryder Cup campaigners Westwood and Kaymer, but Pieters was picked ahead of Scotland's Russell Knox who was the highest ranked player not to qualify automatically.

"The phone call to Russell was one of the hardest I have ever had to make," admitted Clarke as he announced his choices for the match at Hazeltine National in Minnesota.

But Rose, who will be making his fourth Ryder Cup appearance, said he fully backed his captain's judgement.

Rose noted that Pieters had made a bold statement for inclusion with a stunning opening round of 62 playing alongside Clarke on his way to victory at last week's Made in Denmark tournament.

Two weeks earlier Pieters had just missed the podium in Rio. In between he was runner-up at the Czech Masters.

"He finished fourth in the Olympics and then second and first in his last two events," said Rose. "And the style and manner in which he won over the weekend I think really impressed the captain."

Rose believes the 24-year-old Pieters has the type of game that can suit the team format of the Ryder Cup, where players need to adapt to foursome (alternate shot), fourball and singles play over three days of intense competition.

"I think Thomas is a great young talent. He's good for the dynamic of the team," said Rose.

"He's very long off the tee and has a great short game so I think maybe the captain has the option of playing him in many different formats with many different players."

Rose promised he would bring his Olympic gold medal to Hong Kong when he defends his title in December.

There he will come up against Masters champion Danny Willett, who also confirmed his participation on Wednesday in the co-sanctioned European Tour and Asian Tour event at Fanling from December 8-11.

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