'Gut feeling' helps land Illini golf Pieters on Ryder Cup team

  • Former Illini golfer Thomas Pieters of Belgium earned a place on the European team as one of the captain's picks by Darren Clarke. The Ryder Cup will be held at Hazeltine from Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

    Former Illini golfer Thomas Pieters of Belgium earned a place on the European team as one of the captain's picks by Darren Clarke. The Ryder Cup will be held at Hazeltine from Sept. 30-Oct. 2. Associated Press

Updated 8/30/2016 12:31 PM

University of Illinois product Thomas Pieters is in, and former Northwestern star Luke Donald is out.

That summed up Tuesday's announcement of the European team's three captain's picks for the 41st Ryder Cup, which runs Sept. 27 through Oct. 2 at Hazeltine National in Minnesota.


Darren Clarke, captain of Team Europe, revealed his picks in England and two of the selections -- Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer -- were obvious. On a team loaded with six Ryder Cup rookies, those two provide much-needed experience.

Then it came down to Pieters, Scotland's Russell Knox (No. 20 in the world), Donald and Graham McDowell, another Ryder Cup veteran.

Clarke ruled out Donald and McDowell, saying on The Golf Channel that "Neither is firing on all cylinders." Then it came down to Pieters, from Belgium, and Knox.

"I had to go with my gut feeling," Clarke said. "When I told (Pieters) he was over the moon. He'll be a world No. 1 at some stage."

Pieters, 24, is one of many budding pro stars to come through coach Mike Small's powerhouse program at Illinois. After starring for the Illini, Pieters opted to play on the European PGA Tour, where he has won three times, the most recent win coming on Sunday in Denmark.

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Donald, who last played the Ryder Cup at Medinah in 2012, jumped into contention with a second-place finish two weeks ago in the Wyndham Classic. He had a dismal final round on Sunday, shooting 75 to drop 26 places into a tie for 53rd place at The Barclays, the first of the four FedEx Cup Playoff events in New York.

The last day at The Barclays also was difficult for Wheaton's Kevin Streelman. He also shot 75 after being in contention for three rounds and finished tied for 22nd. Both, though, remained well into the top 100 in the FedEx overall standings and are in the field for the Deutsche Bank Championship, which tees off Friday in Boston.

Donald is No. 53 and Streelman No. 57 entering the second $8 million playoff event and they must remain in the top 70 to play in the third -- the BMW Championship, which will be played Sept. 8-11 at Crooked Stick in Indianapolis.

Pieters' Ryder Cup selection culminates a big week for ex-Illini golfers. Brian Campbell clinched his PGA Tour card for the 2016-17 season by finishing 15th on this season's Web.com Tour money list. Thomas Detry, another Belgian, won the European Challenge Tour's Bridgestone event in England on Sunday by a whopping 12 strokes. He opened with a 60 en route to claiming his first pro victory.


Ryder Cup visits here:

The first Ryder Cup Trophy Tour, a monthlong 5,000-mile journey to promote the team matches with USA and European stars, will include stops at Cog Hill and Wrigley Field.

Cog Hill's PGA Junior League will welcome the trophy on Sept. 7 at the Lemont course, and it will be at Wrigley Field Sept. 16 during the Cubs-Brewers game.

On Sept. 17, the trophy will be in South Bend, Ind., during the Notre Dame-Michigan State football game. In all, the Ryder Cup will make 20 appearances in 13 U.S. cities.

IPGA, Mid-Am wrap up:

The final rounds of both the 94th Illinois PGA Championship and the 24th Illinois State Mid-Amateur Championship are on tap for Wednesday.

The IPGA Championship ends its 54-hole run on Olympia Fields' South Course. The final 18 of the 36-hole Mid-Am concludes at Flossmoor Country Club, the tourney site for the sixth straight year.

Here and there:

• Emily Fletcher, the successful coach of the Northwestern women's golf team, will receive the coveted Woman of Distinction Award from the Women's Western Golf Association at the organization's annual meeting Oct. 6 at Indian Hill in Winnetka.

• Brian Payne and his wife Elizabeth, both former Northwestern golfers from Flossmoor, qualified for their respective U.S. Mid-Amateur national championships. The men's and women's finals will be played Sept. 10-15 at courses in Pennsylvania.

• Batavia club manufacturer Tour Edge has named Australian John Craig as its executive vice president effective Jan. 1.

• The American Junior Golf Association named Megan Furtney of South Elgin as one of 20 players in the 12-15 age group to its 15th Junior All-Star team. The team consists of players from nine states and three countries.

• For more golf news, visit lenziehmongolf.com. Len can be contacted by email at lenziehm@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZiehmLen and check out his posts at Facebook.com/lenziehmongolf.

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