Darren Clarke
Europe captain Darren Clarke will confirm his three wildcard picks for the 2016 Ryder Cup this week Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Four years after the incredible Miracle of Medinah and two removed from Jamie Donaldson's superb wedge shot to Gleneagles' 15th green that forced Keegan Bradley to concede and saw reigning champions Europe deservedly clinch a third straight title, the prestigious Ryder Cup competition returns in all its glory from 30 September at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.

Visiting captain Darren Clarke already has nine of his 12-man team confirmed, with Rory McIlroy, Masters champions Danny Willett, Open winner Henrik Stenson and Chris Wood securing automatic qualification for the tournament courtesy of their respective places atop of the European points list.

They will be joined in the American mid-west by world points qualifiers Sergio Garcia, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Olympic gold medallist Justin Rose, Andy Sullivan and Matthew Fitzpatrick, meaning that Europe will look to continue their dominance of the United States - who are set to boast a very strong lineup indeed on home soil - with several players making their Ryder Cup debuts.

Clarke's next big task with only one month left to go is to make his three wildcard picks, which will be unveiled at Wentworth this Tuesday (30 August) following the weekend's Made in Denmark event. Here, IBTimes UK assesses the main candidates...

Lee Westwood

Lee Westwood
Lee Westwood looks almost certain to make his 10th appearance at the Ryder Cup Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

The 43-year-old from Worksop is comfortably Europe's most experienced option, having featured in no fewer than nine Ryder Cups since debuting alongside Sir Nick Faldo during the 1997 victory under Seve Ballesteros in Sotogrande, Spain. A friend of Clarke's who has spoken of his own desire to captain the team in 2020, he has been on the winning side seven times in total and boosted his chances of selection by finishing in joint-second place at this year's Masters. His knowledge could surely be hugely valuable to the rookies and it would be a massive surprise not to see the 23-time European Tour event winner make the cut.

Martin Kaymer

Another player with the necessary experience required, Kaymer has been involved in all three wins since 2010 and memorably set the seal on Europe's dramatic and frankly astonishing final-day comeback in Medinah by sinking a six-foot putt on the 18th green to spark scenes of wild jubilation. The German, a two-time major winner, recently tied for seventh alongside Stenson and Robert Streb at the US PGA Championship at Baltusrol and was 15th at the Olympics.

Russell Knox

Russell Knox
Russell Knox won the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut this month Steven Ryan/Getty Images

If we are to assume that Westwood and Kaymer have the first two spots locked up, then Knox will surely be among the front-runners to take that final wildcard. The Scotsman has enjoyed an impressive season, claiming his first PGA Tour victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai last November. He beat Jerry Kelly by one shot at the Travelers Championship earlier this month too, although that win was somewhat overshadowed by Jim Furyk's historic round of 58 in Connecticut.

Knox also recorded a second-place finish at July's RBC Heritage event at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and was runner-up to McIlroy at the Irish Open. His inclusion is likely to depend on whether or not Clarke is content to pick another player with no previous Ryder Cup appearances. If the answer to that question is yes, than Knox is a real contender.

Thomas Pieters

The Young Belgian clinched his opening European Tour victories in a matter of weeks at the D+D Real Czech Masters and KLM Open last year and has recorded second-place finishes in Abu Dhabi and Prague in 2016 as well as third at the True Thailand Classic. He narrowly missed out on the podium in Rio de Janeiro too, ending the tournament fourth behind medal winners Rose, Stenson and Matt Kuchar.


Pieters actually played with Clarke during the opening rounds of the Made in Denmark at Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort, producing rounds of 62 and 71 respectively. He was two shots off leader Bradley Dredge heading into a final day delayed by thunder and heavy rain, but successfully holed three consecutive birdies on Sunday evening to end on 17-under par and claim victory by a single stroke. Such an eye-catching performance could not have come at a better time in terms of his Ryder Cup prospects.

Luke Donald

Luke Donald
Luke Donald finished second at the recent Wyndham Championship in North Carolina Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Previously the world's number one golfer before making way for McIlroy, Donald had been struggling badly to rediscover his form amid a four-year major tour drought. He had to go through qualifying for the 2015 US Open and missed out on qualification for this year's Masters for the first time in 12 years after falling down the rankings.

However, despite those troubles, the Northwestern University graduate recently gave Clarke food for thought by finishing second and five strokes behind Kim Si-woo on 16-under at the Wyndham Championship. Graeme McDowell was fifth. Donald, who jumped 20 spots to 64th in the world following that promising display in Greensboro, is another veteran of the Ryder Cup, having been a member of all four winning European teams between 2004-10. He was overlooked by Paul McGinley for Gleneagles.

Other potential candidates: Graeme McDowell, Victor Dubuisson, Thorbjorn Olesen, Shane Lowry, Francesco Molinari, Soren Kjeldsen, Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren.