U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin's four wild-card selections were sensible and, for the most part, safe. Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink and Rickie Fowler bring a blend of past, present and future. Another way to say it: experience and potential.
The picks shouldn't bring Pavin much, if any, second-guessing, not that he cares about Monday morning quarterbacking "“ or in this case, Tuesday morning. He didn't leave off anyone obvious, anyone who can make a compelling case of being wrongly overlooked.
That's the main difference in the selections by Pavin and his European counterpart, Colin Montgomerie. Facing a more difficult task because he had one less pick and more to choose from, Monty fueled some pundits when bypassing the highly ranked Paul Casey and Justin Rose.
Pavin takes a solid 12-man team to the Oct. 1-3 Ryder Cup Matches in Wales. One never knows, but it should surprise no one if the competition is closely contested.
As for the four picks, Woods and Johnson were no-brainers, Cink was a reasonable choice because he's experienced and solid, and PGA Tour rookie Fowler should bring flair, fearlessness and a youthful energy.
If Pavin rolled the dice, it was on Fowler because of the young man's uneven play this year, from high to low. But I like the captain's hunch here. Fowler attacks, and you want that in match play. He starred on two Walker Cup teams. He played well at the British Open. Vocal crowds on European soil won't rattle him.
That's a common denominator with the four picks. None of these guys is afraid.
Woods is No. 1 in the world and playing better than he was a month ago. You want him on the team for several obvious reasons. He's the guy you want facing the 8-foot putt with the cup on the line. Woods makes an ideal partner for Steve Stricker (see Presidents Cup, 2009). Send those two out in four team matches and take your chances.
Johnson won Colonial and came close at the PGA Championship. He's not afraid of going low. He's terrific inside 100 yards. And he won't give up a hole easily because of his accuracy and short game.
Cink won the 2009 British Open on Scottish soil and is a Cup regular. He hasn't had his best year, but he's nothing if not dependable.
And Fowler could bring the enthusiasm and good play that the likes of Anthony Kim, Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes delivered two years ago.
"I bring a little bit of color and youth to the team,"� Fowler said. "I do think I can bring some energy. That's one thing I'd like to do . . . keep guys fired up."�
Kim would have been on this team, but he never came close to regaining form after thumb surgery.
Lucas Glover was another candidate, but he didn't fire, shooting 147 last weekend.
Sean O'Hair was on the radar, but he shot 149 at the Deutsche Bank Championship and missed the cut.
Pavin considered a lot of people. But in the end, unlike Montgomerie, he didn't have all that much to choose from.
If there's one guy I might have gone with instead, it's Holmes. He was terrific in his home state at Valhalla in 2008. In match play, I'm partial to birdie-makers, intimidators and bombers "“ and that's what he is. What's more, he just tied for 11th at TPC Boston.
That said, Pavin already has plenty of that type of player in Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton. Maybe Holmes would've been overkill; surely he would've provided less flexibility with pairings. Yes, the Ryder Cup isn't the World Long-Drive Championship, but it would be interesting watching Johnson, Watson and Holmes going bombs away against the Europeans.
As Padraig Harrington once told me, "I can't believe John Daly was never put on a Ryder Cup team. He'd have our attention in the European team room because he's an intimidator."�
Pavin said there wasn't any arguing over the picks when he and his three assistants met. He said no one screamed, "I can't believe you said that!"� He said his picks came down to a "gut feeling."�
In the end, his gut served him just fine.
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