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Darren Clarke
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Europe

Clarke proud of his team despite defeat

Captain Darren Clarke did not think Europe could have done anything more as they suffered a first Ryder Cup defeat in eight years at Hazeltine National.

The Europeans arrived in Minnesota in search of a fourth consecutive win with six rookies in their ranks and got off to a horrible start, suffering a 4-0 whitewash in the opening foursomes session.

Clarke's men dug deep and when Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters claimed a third win of the week as a pair in the Saturday fourballs, Europe had clawed their way back level at 6½-6½.

The Americans won the remaining three matches in that session to leave Europe with a mountain to climb and then closed out a high-quality singles 7½-4½ to win back the trophy 17-11.

The home victory was their first since 2008 and came after a task force had been formed to address their lack of success in the biennial showpiece in recent years.

With eight wins in the last 11 contests, it is unlikely such an in-depth review will be required on the other side of the Atlantic, and Clarke felt Europe did everything they could to keep the trophy.

"I couldn't be more proud of the guys that I'm surrounded with," he said. "They did everything I asked of them. They tried their heart out. They worked hard. They fought hard.

"The bottom line is that Davis' team holed a few more putts than we did and they played better. So when it comes to it, the American Ryder Cup Team deserved to win this Ryder Cup and we're all gutted and disappointed.

"We will be back stronger to fight in two years' time in Paris.

"We couldn't have done anything more. I've had a wonderful group of vice captains behind me helping me every step of the way.

"The whole concept this week has been that we're here as one team, one unit and we've all made our decisions together.

"This just doesn't happen overnight. There's a year and a half of planning going into it and the whole backroom team and the support that I've had from the European Tour has been fantastic."

Clarke also insisted he would not have done anything differently and suggested, as is often the case in golf, what happened on the greens proved decisive.

"I really wouldn't change anything," he said. "I think the only one that I possibly may have changed, yesterday morning's pairings had to be in at 1140 when there were still some matches in the group and that's the tricky one trying to see what's what.

"At the end of the day, in quite a few of the Ryder Cups that I've played the European guys have putted that little bit better. I think this week the American guys have putted that little bit better. It's those fine margins that make all the difference between winning and losing."

Pieters led the European charge, claiming four points from his five matches and with fellow rookies Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan, Danny Willett and Chris Wood now having all tasted Ryder Cup action, Clarke believes the future is bright.

"I think it's huge that those rookies blended in with the whole thing so well and felt so comfortable with the whole thing," he said. "With those guys taking over the mantle and filing those positions in Paris, I'm sure they'll be even more superstars than they are already."

American Captain Davis Love III was full of praise for the European Team as he achieved a victory to put to bed the ghost of the Miracle at Medinah in 2012, when the Europeans came back from 10-6 down to win the cup on the final day.

"The Europeans came in here and played unbelievable golf, from Rory all the way through, there was a lot of stunning golf," he said. "Phil [Mickelson] put up ten birdies and only got a half.

"Unbelievable golf and I'm proud of what Darren's done. But our team really rallied together and beat and played one of the best teams ever in the European Team."