Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2023 Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, Rome, Italy

Captain Darren Clarke has backed his Ryder Cup rookies to be the foundation of European teams for years to come as he prepares to take them into battle against the United States at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

The Northern Irishman leads Europe's charge for a fourth consecutive victory in the biennial showpiece with six first-timers among his ranks in Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Thomas Pieters, Andy Sullivan, Danny Willett and Chris Wood.

By contrast, the Americans have just two rookies in their team in Minnesota, with some observers citing their superior experience as a factor in making the home side odds-on favourites to lift the trophy for the first time since 2008.

Clarke, though, has full faith in a set of exciting young stars with 18 European Tour wins between them, including a Green Jacket and a BMW PGA Championship.

"We've got six rookies on our team this week," he said. "They are probably going to be the future of the Ryder Cup going forward and I feel very fortunate that they are here on this team.

"I have full belief in all those rookies. They are very, very talented players and I'm sure they will do their utmost to respect Europe the best that they can this week."

The skipper was understandably keeping his cards close to his chest on which players he would pair together in the foursomes and fourballs but he admitted he knew "almost about 100 per cent" who would go out together on Friday.

With that in mind, Clarke mixed up his practice groups on Wednesday, revealing the mood in the camp was relaxed after visits from British and Irish Lions rugby union captain Paul O'Connell and magician Dynamo the previous evening.

"This morning I decided that I would put the veterans out against the rookies and let the rookies step up and take the veterans on," he said.

"That was the whole idea this morning. The guys are relaxed, they're enjoying themselves, and they wanted to go out there and have a little bit of fun. They've got a lot of pressure coming their way and this morning was going out and letting them play nine holes and trying to take the cash off the older guys."

He added: "Paul most definitely was exceptional in the team room last night. Any man that leads the British Lions who are playing overseas all the time, they play away from home. So to get his input and his vision on what it took to make a successful travelling side was very impressive.

"The team and the caddies were unbelievably impressed with the words that he gave us last night, so I was very, very thankful for him to come along and do that. The guys were thoroughly inspired.

"After that, going into the team room and having Dynamo there, Paul was in there as well, with Dynamo and to see the guys switch off a little bit and chill and enjoy themselves was also very beneficial. All in all, it was a very productive evening."

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