Europe's rookies will cope with USA fans' stick, insists Lee Westwood

Lee Westwood believes Europe's six Ryder Cup rookies will be ready for anything they encounter when they attempt to secure an unprecedented fourth straight victory at Hazeltine next month.

Lee Westwood, of England, is back in the Ryder Cup team (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Captain Darren Clarke was reluctant to add another debutant to the five who qualified automatically, but ultimately “found it impossible” not to select Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, who finished fourth in the Olympics, second in the Czech Masters and won in Denmark on Sunday.

That means Europe’s side will contain six rookies for the first time since Celtic Manor in 2010 and the most since seven were on the team at Brookline in 1999.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“Let’s make no bones about it, I think it will be tough,” admitted Westwood, who will make his 10th consecutive appearance in the biennial event after being selected along with fellow former world No 1 Martin Kaymer.

Lee Westwood, of England, is back in the Ryder Cup team (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

“It’s difficult to be a rookie on home soil when you have the crowd cheering for you, but to be a rookie in the States and be up against it, the crowd as well as the team, it’s a little extra. But I look at our rookies and I see them not as rookies. There’s a lot of experience there and I look at a lot of the players’ characters and I think they can take it, they can take a fight and a bit of stick.

“So I’m still very positive. I think we’ve got some world-class players.”

Clarke was wildly enthusiastic about Pieters, tipping him to become world No 1 and comparing him to the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.

“I am really proud of myself and just amazed how much confidence Darren has in me,” said the 24-year-old, who shot an opening 62 in Denmark while paired with Clarke. “(This) couldn’t be a better day.

European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke during a press conference at Wentworth Golf Club, Surrey.

“I lost some sleep over it on Friday and Saturday night, not because I was really nervous, but there was so much going on and everybody is asking about it and I think it just gets to you a little bit.

“I’m just really pleased I found a way to concentrate and focus, and I had a job to do on Sunday.”

Pieters has experience of playing in America after a successful college career at the University of Illinois, where he won the NCAA Division 1 Championship in 2011 in a field containing two-time major winner Jordan Spieth.

Westwood’s inclusion means Yorkshire’s Lindrick Golf Club will have three fee-paying members in the team, the others being Masters champion Danny Willett and British Masters champion Matt Fitzpatrick.

Lee Westwood, of England, is back in the Ryder Cup team (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Toughest call I’ve had to make, says Clarke: Page 20.

European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke during a press conference at Wentworth Golf Club, Surrey.