In the end Darren Clarke opted to complete his Eurasia Cup team with Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood as captain’s picks, leaving Padraig Harrington free to add the Sony Open in Hawaii to his 2016 schedule.
The Dungannon man wanted experience for his European side to take on Asian in the EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Malaysia from January 15-17.
But while Harrington indicated earlier this month via Twitter than his fitness would not be a problem after undergoing an operation on his right knee on November 26 — “I could play tomorrow” he wrote, tweeting a picture of him in the cryotherapy unit in his garage — his former Ryder Cup team mate went another way.
The English duo of Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood complete the 12-man European team for the second edition of the EurAsia Cup, which ended in a thrilling 10-10 draw at Glenmarie in 2014.
According to the European Tour:
Poulter and Westwood will be making their EurAsia Cup debuts next January, but the pair will bring with them a wealth of Ryder Cup experience, having amassed a grand total of 36 points from a combined 14 appearances in the biennial match between Europe and the USA.
Clarke said: “I am thrilled to announce Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood as my Captain’s picks for the EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM. We have a very young and exciting team heading to Malaysia in January, and to add the vast experience of Ian and Lee into the mix gives us a very strong and balanced side as we look to take the EurAsia Cup trophy back to Europe.
“Having played in a total of 14 Ryder Cups, Ian and Lee have proven themselves two of the most fearsome match players in the game and their presence in the team room and their ability to share their vast knowledge of the European team environment will be hugely important for us in Malaysia.
"They have seen and done it all in terms of Ryder Cups and team golf, so I am delighted they have joined the EurAsia Cup cause. We are going to Glenmarie to win that trophy and Ian and Lee can play a massive role for us in Kuala Lumpur.”
Poulter, the European talisman who inspired that unforgettable victory in the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ in 2012 by winning four out of four matches, said: “I don’t think it’s a secret how much I love playing match play golf and representing Europe, so it was an easy decision for me to make when Darren asked me to join his team for the EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM.
“I am looking forward to it. It will be the perfect way to start the year and I hope that my experience can help both on and off the course. Playing for my team mates, Captain and the Continent of Europe brings a different level of intensity to golf for me and I can’t wait to feel that buzz again.”
Westwood, meanwhile, has been an ever-present for Europe since making his Ryder Cup debut in 1997, securing a total of 23 points to sit in fourth place in the all-time point scorers list behind Sir Nick Faldo (25), Bernhard Langer (24) and Colin Montgomerie (23.5). Westwood delivered two points for Europe in 2014 to overtake the great Seve Ballesteros (22.5) on the all-time scorers list.
He said: “I didn’t have to think much about the decision when Darren gave me the call. As players we all feel very proud to represent Europe, be it in the Ryder Cup or in this case the EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM, so I am very pleased that Darren has put his faith in me to be one of his Captain’s picks.
“I’ve had a fair amount of success in Malaysia over the years – I have won the Malaysian Open twice – so hopefully I can keep that form going and help Darren and the team get the result we want down there. Myself and Poults will definitely bring a lot of experience to the team room as well, so hopefully we’ll have a positive influence and can play our part in winning the EurAsia Cup.”
The inclusion of Poulter and Westwood takes the number of players with Ryder Cup experience in Clarke’s side to four, with Frenchman Victor Dubuisson – who dazzled on his debut at Gleneagles last year – and 2010 team member Ross Fisher of England having also tasted success in the biennial contest between Europe and the United States.
That quartet will be joined in Kuala Lumpur by Sweden’s Kristoffer Broberg, the English quartet of Matthew Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan, Danny Willett and Chris Wood, Dane Søren Kjeldsen, Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.
Team Asia, captained by Jeev Milkha Singh of India, will name its 12-man team on December 15 following the conclusion of the Thailand Golf Championship.
A future Ryder Cup (or Eurasia Cup) captaincy candidate, Harrington was a vice-captain for Paul McGinley in the 2014 Ryder Cup and would be keen to do the job again next year at Hazeltine, if he fails to make Clarke's team as a player.
The 44-year old Dublin will begin his 2016 campaign in Hawaii from January 7-10 when he tees it up for the first time in the .Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua following his win in this year's Honda Classic.