“Having known Russell and his whole family for well over a decade I feel his pain of not receiving a Captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. He is an extremely humble individual and I hope this knockback will only enhance his ability to achieve bigger things in the game of golf. What he has achieved on an individual level coming through the feeder tours in America and now to the big time is great for him and his family. Its possibly one of the hardest KNOX he will ever encounter but I believe he will be stronger for it” Christopher Campbell, Managing Director KAI Agency
Darren Clarke claimed he agonised over his Ryder Cup wildcard picks before finally opting for Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters.
It meant that US based Scotsman, Russell Knox, missed out on a debut appearance at Hazeltine but speaking to the BBC he insisted he was not angry at the decision.
“Let’s be honest, it came down to Thomas Pieters or me. He couldn’t have picked a wrong one,” said the 31-year-old.
“Thomas deserves to be in the team. He has played tremendously well the last couple of months and he is going to be a superstar.”
It means that next month’s tournament will be only the third since the Second World War in which no Scot has played, although Paul Lawrie is one of Clarke’s vice-captains.
“It is a shame for the Scottish game and it is a shame for myself not to make it,” Knox added.
“I don’t think I could have done a lot more to make the team outright, but it wasn’t meant to be this time.
“In two years’ time, I hope myself and a couple of other Scottish guys are on the team.”
Clarke revealed that the decision to include Westwood and Kaymer was relatively painless as he sought to add some experience to the team. However, the same could not be said about opting for Knox or Pieters.
“With Lee and Martin, they were two pretty obvious choices to me. The last one was very difficult,” said the 48-year-old.
“I’m not going to sit here and say otherwise. I had a few different people in my mind. Obviously Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald, regarding their experience, to join those three.
“But those two, I think they haven’t quite been on top of their own games, which I’m sure they will readily admit.
“So then it came down to the choices between Russell Knox and Thomas Pieters. That has been an incredibly difficult decision. I haven’t slept an awful lot about it. And having to phone Russell yesterday and give him the information is probably one of the toughest phone calls I’ve ever had to make, because Russell has played unbelievably well over the qualification period with winning WGC and then doing what he did in Travelers.
“You know, some people would say he deserved a position on the team. But I took a look at it and put them side-by-side, and I’ve always been a huge Thomas Pieters fan from when I first witnessed how he hits the golf ball and how he plays.
“And the manner which he’s played golf these past few tournaments: Fourth in the Olympics, to go to Czech and get beaten with a birdie on last green; and then last week to do what he did, to birdie the last three holes to win the tournament in the fashion that he did, just impressed me that much that I found it almost – well, I found it impossible to leave him off the team.
“But certainly it was one of the most difficult periods I’ve ever had to deal with in my golfing career.”