Corey Pavin goes safe with Ryder Cup picks

September, 7, 2010

Go ahead. Criticize his wild-card picks. Tell United States captain Corey Pavin that Tiger Woods isn't a team player or Rickie Fowler isn't experienced enough or Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson are too vanilla.

He doesn't care -- or so he says.

"I'm not very concerned about it personally," Pavin said during Tuesday's news conference. "My job is to put together the team that I feel is the best team and to represent the United States in the Ryder Cup. What other people's opinions are, I cannot control and I'm not concerned about it. I am just trying to get the best guys together to go over there and win."

The truth is, with the announcement that Woods, Fowler, Cink and Johnson are his choices, the skipper made smart, safe picks which likely ensure that he will neither receive credit for winning with this quartet, nor shoulder the blame for losing with them.

History has shown this isn't always the case. There have been Ryder Cup captains who lived and died by their picks. They were defined by these selections, their entire tenure judged upon whether their guys led the team to glory.

In 1999, Europe captain Mark James infamously chose head-scratcher Andrew Coltart, only to bench him until Sunday, when the Scotsman contributed to a historic loss. Seven years later, Ian Woosnam went with Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke -- the latter just a month after his wife's death from cancer -- and they combined to claim seven points in the landslide victory.

Pavin won't be similarly remembered.

Of course, this is in stark contrast to his European counterpart Colin Montgomerie, who was roundly lambasted for his three captain's picks last week.

In choosing Edoardo Molinari, Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington, the captain omitted world No. 9 Paul Casey and two-time 2010 champion Justin Rose. If his side wins because of these players, Monty will be received as the toast of the continent; if they flounder en route to defeat, he will bear the brunt of the criticism.

Pavin, though, failed to put his stamp on the Ryder Cup with these selections. Not that it's a bad thing, mind you. One of the captain's main duties is to provide his team with the best roster of players needed to win the biennial competition, and it's difficult to argue that America's man in charge hasn't done exactly that.

Three of his four picks were no-brainers, easily duplicated by any mass polling of Internet speculators. The fourth went to an adroit 21-year-old rookie who already owns five top-10s this season, though none since the Memorial in early June.

Even those who preferred another player understand that it's not as if the selection of Fowler is completely out of left field. Consider this: At 33rd in the world, he is actually ranked two spots higher than Cink, a major champion who has played on four previous editions of the team.

If the youngster -- who was competing in the amateur-only Walker Cup just a year ago -- fails to succeed in Wales next month, it's tough to believe many Monday morning quarterbacks will be pining for one of the other candidates.

Anthony Kim could have been an option, but he has yet to play well after returning from thumb surgery. Lucas Glover was on the short list, but other than last year's U.S. Open victory, he's shown a knack for melting under pressure.

Nick Watney? Sean O'Hair? J.B. Holmes? Bo Van Pelt? All good players. That's right -- good, not great. Even recent Deutsche Bank Championship winner Charley Hoffman can't be too upset about being overlooked, considering he was 57th on the points list when it ended three weeks ago.

When previous U.S. captain Paul Azinger retooled the Ryder Cup qualification process prior to the last edition of the event, expanding from two wild-card selections to four, he immediately made this part of the role not only twice as difficult, but twice as important, too.

More than ever before, the onus is on the skipper to ensure that one-third of his roster blends with the already-qualified participants. With his selections of Woods, Fowler, Cink and Johnson, the current captain did everything in his power to certify that the players will determine the eventual result as opposed to himself -- quite the opposite of Montgomerie's current predicament.

And if you disagree? Well, that's OK, too. After all, Corey Pavin isn't worried about the criticism.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for He can be reached at

Jason Sobel | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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