Ryder Cup selections a problem for U.S.
AP Golf Writer
NORTON, Mass. (AP) – Too bad Ryder Cup eligibility is based on passports instead of property taxes. There still might be hope for Paul Casey, who has been living in Arizona for most of his adult life.
Ditto for Justin Rose, who makes his home in Florida.
Alas, those English-born stars were left off the European team when Colin Montgomerie had five worthy candidates as captain’s picks and could only take three. Montgomerie famously referred to his dilemma as an “embarrassment of riches.”
For U.S. captain Corey Pavin, there’s more emphasis on “embarrassment” than “riches” at the moment.
Some people thought Pavin was lucky he didn’t have to announce his picks the day after the PGA Championship, instead having three additional tournaments to allow players to state their case.
It isn’t getting much clearer.
Arjun Atwal won the Wyndham Championship at Greensboro. He was born and raised in India and now lives in Isleworth, making him eligible for the Tavistock Cup, but not the Ryder Cup. Turns out Atwal wasn’t even eligible for the FedEx Cup.
Then came The Barclays, where the only Ryder Cup chatter was the coincidence of a Scot – Martin Laird – leading the tournament. The winner turned out to be Matt Kuchar, who already is on the team.
The Deutsche Bank Championship, which starts Friday on the TPC Boston, could go a long way toward helping Pavin figure out his picks. Pavin will make the announcement a week from Tuesday at the New York Stock Exchange.
It’s looking very much like a bear market at the moment.
Tiger Woods figures to be a lock to make the team, for no other reason than he wants to play. And it helps that Woods took a significant step last week toward at least starting to resemble the world’s No. 1 player. Woods spent his final few minutes at Ridgewood cleaning out his locker and going over the possibilities of Pavin’s picks.
Like everyone else, he didn’t come to much of a conclusion.
Anthony Kim, the catalyst of the U.S. victory at Valhalla in 2008, won the Houston Open and was third at the Masters. Then he had thumb surgery, sat out for three months, and has made only one cut since his return – at Firestone, which has no cut. He is all but forgotten now, although a good week at the TPC Boston might put him back on the radar screen. The Ryder Cup does not start until Oct. 1.
Most players believe Zach Johnson is the logical pick behind Woods. The former Masters champion has a splendid short game and won at Colonial, then finished one shot out of the playoff at the PGA Championship.
The rest of them?
Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover had a chance to make the team until he missed the cut at the PGA Championship. He had a chance to show he was worth picking at Greensboro when he took the lead in the final round, only to shoot 38 on the back nine.
Stewart Cink, a British Open champion and steady influence in the Ryder Cup, struggled badly with scoring earlier in the year. His game is rounding into form, but he still has only three top 10s this year.
Rickie Fowler? Really? On a U.S. team that already has four Ryder Cup rookies, does Pavin take a 21-year-old who has never won a tournament? Fowler had a chance to win the Phoenix Open when he opted to lay up on a par 5 instead of hitting 4-iron, and he failed to hold a three-shot lead at the Memorial, hitting into the water on the 12th hole. This is not passing judgment. These are facts.
Nick Watney could have earned a spot at the PGA Championship, where he had a three-shot lead going into the final round. He shot 81. Watney has two top 10s in the majors, but he has not won. Sean O’Hair is more than capable, but he hasn’t won this year, either, and hasn’t come particularly close.
Ben Crane won in San Diego and is a great putter. He has never played on a Ryder Cup team.
Can anyone find two players who stand out above the rest? Can anyone find two players who stand out at all?
The Americans were in about the same place two years ago. Paul Azinger had his eight players, and while Steve Stricker was a logical pick, no one else had really distinguished himself. Turns out it wasn’t entirely up to Azinger, anyway. He revealed later that he let his three “pods” pick their fourth player.
This time, it’s up to Pavin. He is looking more for a team of 12 than 12 players on a team.
“Whoever I choose is not a bad reflection on them if I don’t pick them,” Pavin said the day after the PGA Championship. “It’s not a slap in the face. It’s just who I think is going to make for the best team.”
Pavin invited 21 top players from the Ryder Cup standings to a barbecue during the PGA Championship, and said everyone there would get a phone call with either good news or bad news.
“I told them they all are deserving, and the hardest thing for me is to pick four and leave some guys off the team,” Pavin said. “I felt everyone in that room deserved to be on the team.”
That may be true.
But unless something changes drastically this week, no one will have much room to complain if they don’t get picked.