Rory McIlroy expects Ian Poulter to be part of Europe's Ryder Cup team this year despite a foot injury.
Poulter is set to be sidelined for four months because of the problem, throwing his hopes of competing in the 2016 edition of the biennial tournament at Hazeltine in Minnesota into doubt.
The Englishman has been pivotal to Europe's recent dominance of the Ryder Cup, scoring 13 points in 18 matches.
Darren Clarke will captain Europe this year and McIlroy feels Poulter's injury may have spared his fellow Northern Irishman from a difficult decision over whether to include the world number 85 as one of his three picks.
He said: "For Poults, it's obviously tough, I didn't even know that he was struggling with his foot up until this point.
"I knew he hadn't been playing his best, but it's tough to miss four months when it's a Ryder Cup year, and that's the event that he wants to play in more than anything else.
"But if anything, it sort of makes Darren Clarke's job a little bit easier because Poults was in a position where he might not have qualified for the team, but it's tough not to include him. Even if he wasn't playing his best, it might have put Darren in a difficult spot.
"But because of the injury, that might not be the case now. In a way, it makes Darren's life a little bit easier.
"I think having Poults as a part of the team, he's been such a stalwart for us over the last few Ryder Cups, that it would be weird not to have him there.
"If he can't be there as one of the 12 playing, hopefully, he's there as a vice captain. He's always good fun and good to be around in the team room and the locker room. If he couldn't be there playing, I'd love to see him there as a vice captain."