Ryder Cup: Darren Clarke keeps European qualifying unchanged

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Darren Clarke says Irish Open test should suit his game

Captain Darren Clarke has decided not to change Europe's qualifying system for next year's Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.

That means the Northern Irishman, 46, will have three wildcard picks to join the nine men who qualify automatically.

The top four players in the European points list will qualify for next September's competition, along with the top five in the world points list.

"It would have been foolish to make any changes," said Clarke, speaking in the build-up to this week's Irish Open.

There had been suggestions Clarke was considering reducing the number of wildcards to two, but he has decided not to deviate from the system used by fellow Irishman Paul McGinley, whose side beat the United States 16½-11½ at Gleneagles last year.

The European points list is calculated from performances on the European Tour, with Clarke's other five automatic selections based on world ranking points accrued during the qualification period, which will start at the Russian Open in early September.

"I gave it a lot of thought," said 2011 Open champion Clarke. "I went into comparisons of what teams would have been like under different systems.

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Rory McIlroy is confident that his off-course commitments at this week's Irish Open will not hinder his challenge at Royal County Down.

"I am absolutely delighted that we have got the same qualifying system again and hopefully that will enable us to have the strongest possible European team going to Hazeltine, because we are going to need it."

World number one Rory McIlroy will be expected to be part of the team, and Clarke praised the 26-year-old's role central role in ensuring a strong field for this week's Irish Open at Royal County Down.

McIlroy's charitable foundation is hosting the tournament and his persuasive powers have lured Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and Martin Kaymer to the Northern Irish links course.

"For a man so young to be giving so much back speaks volumes about him," said Clarke.

"If you take a look at the field this week, that is a reflection of just how highly Rory is held by his peers. It's going to be a fantastic week of golf."

After his impressive closing 66 at last week's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, Clarke is looking forward to this week's tournament - albeit in a very different environment.

The Dungannon native, who grew up playing links golf, said he thoroughly enjoyed "having to chip five irons 140 yards" in his practice round alongside Irish amateur Gavin Moynihan on Tuesday.

"The course is playing very fast," he added. "You've got a few blind shots but that is part of what makes Royal County Down so special.

"You are going to have to land some shots 30 yards short of the green to keep the ball on the green.

"And if we get the weather that's forecast for this week, it is going to be a really tough challenge."

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