Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Corey Pavin could face dilemma over Tiger Woods

Jeff Overton's second-place finish on Sunday at the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia has pushed Tiger Woods out of the automatic qualifying positions for the Ryder Cup.
In the unlikely event that Woods does not play his way back into the team over the next two weeks, captain Corey Pavin would have a big decision to make. Does he leave out the world No 1?
It is the sort of decision that Pavin might relish. He has always had a feisty streak. Many still remember the Desert Storm cap he wore at the 1991 Ryder Cup and he has a strong moral fascination, having converted from Judaism to Christianity. Pavin is not Woods's biggest fan as a person.
It is possible that America's captain may not get too big an argument from Woods. Pavin is due to talk to him at next week's US PGA Championship and Woods may be unenthusiastic about travelling to Wales. When he was asked at the Masters about this year's Ryder Cup, Woods said: "Would I like to play in it? If I qualify."
It was not the sort of response you get from the Europeans, who always devote themselves to making the team. In contrast, Woods has disliked the Ryder Cup since the PGA of America would not let his dad travel as part of the official party to Valderrama in 1997. Woods lost his putting touch that week and felt abandoned and miserable.
Many things are stacked against him wanting to travel to Newport at the end of next month. He is not a fan of Wales after a bad Walker Cup experience there in 1995. A lot of the American wives were friends of his wife, Elin, and Woods will feel awkward around them. The press will be keen to question him. He has an awful Ryder Cup record and may have to defer to Phil Mickelson as team leader. Woods would love to say no, but is aware that America might turn on him if he did. He would be branded.
Woods may yet qualify despite his disinclination. He has an awesome record at Akron, the venue of this week's Bridgestone Invitational, having won the tournament the last four times he has played in it.
The expectation is that he will be back in the team by Sunday night, but if his poor form does continue, Pavin and Woods may just be in a no-win situation. Picking Woods would compromise America's team ethic, but leaving him out would create a verbal storm.
A few months ago Pavin said: "I'm not going to treat Tiger differently from any other player. He's certainly not an automatic pick." Jack Nicklaus then said: "He'd need a brain scan if he left Tiger out of the team. Of course he should pick Tiger."
That is just a light appetiser compared to what would happen if Pavin really did exclude Woods.
When the eight automatic spots are confirmed after the US PGA Championship, Pavin will have three weeks to look at the form of his potential wild cards. If the standings remain as they are now, any sensible captain would prefer Hunter Mahan, a key player two years ago, to Woods.
But are there four players to pick ahead of Woods? Rookie Rickie Fowler is another who may feature, but it would be a terrific snub also to take novices Ricky Barnes and Ben Crane ahead of Woods.

Top eight qualify for Ryder Cup on Oct 1-3. Captain then picks four more.
1. Phil Mickelson 5,769
2. Jim Furyk 3,419
3. Steve Stricker 3,403
4. Jeff Overton 3,278
5. Anthony Kim 3,238
6. Lucas Glover 2,981
7. Matt Kuchar 2,938
8. Dustin Johnson 2,936
9. Tiger Woods 2,773
10. Hunter Mahan 2,644
11. Ricky Barnes 2,610
12. Ben Crane 2,534
13. Stewart Cink 2,394
14. Nick Watney 2,298



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