Clarke 'extremely proud' of Europe's fightback


Darren Clarke hailed the "bravery and heart" of his players after Europe responded impressively to a brutal start in the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine on Friday. 

The holders lost all of their early matches to trail by 4-0 after the foursomes, but mustered an emphatic response during the fourballs, reducing the deficit to 5-3 by the end of day one in Minnesota.

And Europe's captain paid tribute to the efforts of his players, as the likes of Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy helped to get the visitors back in contention.

"Yeah, that's the Ryder Cup," Clarke said after a day of contrasting fortunes for the two teams. 

"That's what all these people come to watch. You know, historically, Europe have probably been stronger in the foursomes and America have always been stronger in the fourballs and that was completely turned on its head.

"The guys were disappointed with the way they played this morning and the way they performed. But they showed tremendous bravery and heart and desire to go out and play the way they have done this afternoon. As a captain, I'm extremely proud of them."

Two of Europe's rookies, Englishmen Matt Fitzpatrick and Chris Wood, did not see any action on Friday, but they are both in the early Saturday morning pairings. 

"Well, they both have been playing very well," Clarke said. 

"It's been tough to leave them out. Matt Fitzpatrick's game is built around greens and fairways, which is a perfect foursomes player.

"Chris Wood, he's a very, very strong player, and has been playing exceptionally well in practice. They are almost like waiting for Christmas; they want to go and play."

One rookie, Thomas Pieters, played in both sessions Friday. He started with a tough loss alongside Lee Westwood but rebounded with a dramatic win in the company of McIlroy in the afternoon. 

"Thomas is the real deal," Clarke said. 

"He's obviously not that well known over here. He's a wonderful talent. He is developing as a player. He's been very comfortable in the whole situation this week with it being his first Ryder Cup.

"You know ... he's fitted in perfectly. Rory and himself got on really well. Obviously this afternoon they played very, very well. He's a huge prospect for The European Tour and European golf. He can't wait to get back out there and partner with Rory again in the morning."