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Page last updated at 20:35 GMT, Tuesday, 2 September 2008 21:35 UK

Clarke springs to Poulter defence

Darren Clarke
Clarke has appeared in four winning teams

Darren Clarke has called for an end to the furore caused by Ian Poulter's selection as one of European captain Nick Faldo's Ryder Cup wildcards.

The choice of Poulter ahead of Clarke and Colin Montgomerie has been queried by former Europe skippers Sam Torrance and Bernard Gallacher.

And it also sparked a spat between Poulter and the overlooked Montgomerie.

"I feel for Poults. He's been given a lot of stick through no fault of his own," said Clarke.

"He's a great player, he's 24th in the world. Both Paul Casey and Ian are ahead of me in the world rankings. That's the yardstick to which we're all measured, and that's the way it is."

Torrance, who captained Europe to victory at The Belfry in 2002, said he would have plumped for Clarke and Casey - who was chosen by Faldo - as his wildcards.

And Torrance said Poulter's omission would have been punishment for his decision to skip a final chance of automatic qualification at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles last week.

"For me it was always Casey and Clarke I would have gone for," said Torrance.

"Ian made an error by not playing at Gleneagles, he would have got a yellow card from me over that."

Torrance joined three-time European Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher in querying the wisdom of selecting Poulter for the matches in Valhalla, Kentucky from 19-21 September.

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But Clarke, a veteran of five Ryder Cups, believes Poulter should be beyond reproach, while claiming Faldo had changed his selection criteria.

"I think Poults has been dragged into a situation which was caused not by his own doing, but because Nick has changed his mind and gone back on it," Clarke said.

"But at the end of the day, that's his decision. So I think Poults has maybe been caught taking the brunt of a lot of things which is not his fault. We all know Poults, we know he's lively and he has fun, but we know he's a great guy."

Expanding on his theory that Faldo "changed his mind" on selection criteria, Clarke stated: "Earlier in the year, Nick had said that he wanted his players to be on form, he wasn't going to pay particular attention to the rankings.

"I thought I was on good form, my record this year has been a couple of good wins and lots of top 10s, but unfortunately he changed his mind, and you know, I've got to bank with that.

"But I've never had a problem with Nick. I've played with him a lot over the years, and he's been the best player we've ever produced. I have no personal issues with Nick whatsoever, he's always been dead straight with me."

Torrance did also add that Poulter "made it a very difficult choice for Nick" following his second-placed finish at this year's Open at Royal Birkdale.

It is looking good for us. We are going for six wins in seven and we are certainly favourites

Former European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance
"He saw some great golf from Poulter on the final day of the Open," added Torrance. "It was a great performance by Ian who could easily have won it."

Torrance said he had also expected Montgomerie to be named as a second vice-captain alongside Jose Maria Olazabal, having failed to qualify for the team or earn a captain's pick.

"I was a wee bit surprised at that decision," said Torrance. "From my experience it is very difficult to get everything right on an occasion like this.

"When I was captain in 2002 I had three assistants but if he's decided to do it this way then that is his choice."

Despite the controversy over selection, Torrance believes that Europe are in a strong position to continue their fine run over the United States in recent years.

"I think it is looking good for us. We are going for six wins in seven and we are certainly favourites," he said. "We have a strong team but in the end it is down to how the 12 players on each side perform on the occasion.

"But the Americans are a good side, too, and Paul Azinger's a good captain."


see also
European Ryder Cup rankings
26 Aug 08 |  Golf


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