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By Lary Dorman

via: newyorktimes


With the New York Stock Exchange for a backdrop, the United States Ryder Cup captain, Corey Pavin, rounded out his 12-man team Tuesday with three safe blue-chip choices and one initial public offering with some real upside potential.

The first three picks were Tiger Woods, Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson: the No. 1 player in the world golf rankings and two experienced Ryder Cup hands who have been playing well. They had been the front-runners for the last two weeks. But Rickie Fowler, the colorful 21-year-old PGA Tour rookie who was the fourth and final choice, was chosen after some internal debate and a call polling the rest of the team.

“There was a lot of thought put into it,” Pavin said. “I spoke with all eight members of the team as well, and got their opinions. Obviously the assistant captains here, I received their opinions, and simply made the choice.”

The choice was not an easy one. Pavin was considering J. B. Holmes, the long-hitting Kentuckian who distinguished himself in the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club. He also had to weigh whether Anthony Kim, another stalwart on that winning United States team, had sufficiently recovered from thumb surgery. Many others were considered, including Charley Hoffman, who shot 62 on Monday to win the Deutsche Bank Championship by five strokes.

In the end, Pavin, who was the consummate feel player when he was shaping shots in his prime on the Tour — went with his gut instinct. Fowler, the first PGA Tour rookie to be on a Ryder Cup team, was the choice.

“I think, obviously, he’s deserving,” Pavin said. “There’s a lot of guys deserving to be on the team. There were a lot of people in the mix. I’ve said that before, and it’s absolutely true.

“We talked a lot about it last night, the three of us here, and as I said, I spoke to Jeff Sluman on the phone as well. It just came down to feelings. I had a gut feeling about Rickie.”

Although Johnson, who won at the Colonial this year, is the lone 2010 tournament winner among the picks, Pavin was looking for more than wins on the Tour. His measure, as he has said all along, was whether the choice would be able to stand up to the pressure of playing the Ryder Cup on foreign soil.

The Ryder Cup, which every two years pits a team of top European golfers against a team from the United States, will be played Oct. 1 to 3 in Newport, Wales.

Woods, who has clearly been getting reacquainted with his game in the last few weeks, has played in five Ryder Cups, three of them in Europe. Cink, a three-time captain’s pick in his fifth Ryder Cup, has played in two Cups abroad, and Johnson played in his first at the K Club in Ireland.

Fowler’s only team experience came in two Walker Cups, playing in England and Northern Ireland and compiling a 7-1 record. Does he bring youthful enthusiasm and a certain amount of confident swagger to the team?

“I thought Anthony Kim did a great job of that the last Ryder Cup,” he said, “but I do think I could bring some energy, and that’s one thing I would like to do, is help out the team, obviously playing well, stuff like that, but keeping the guys fired up and keeping that main goal in mind.”

Pavin insisted that the selection of Woods was never a fait accompli, that he continued to evaluate his play right up to Monday’s final round of the Deutsche Bank, and that Woods’s improved performance in the weeks leading up to it were the final arbiters.

“I was trying not to form any opinions until almost this weekend,” Pavin said. “I didn’t want to burden myself overthinking this, so I waited and waited and waited. Obviously, I was pleased to see him playing better, certainly, as well as the other guys.

“Tiger is one of 12 guys on the team, and every one of them is just as important as another player.”

Woods has been expressing his desire to be one of Pavin’s selections for the team since he failed to qualify on points by the P.G.A. Championship, which was the cutoff for accumulating points.

On Tuesday Woods was asked about his perceived indifference to the Ryder Cup competition and whether he needed the Ryder Cup more this time around.

“I don’t know where the perception of indifference is because I’ve always loved it,” he said. “The team bonding that occurs, getting to know the guys and everyone there that’s associated with our team are experiences that you’ll never forget, and I’ve created some great friendships because of it.”

Woods has always entered the Ryder Cup as the top dog, and this will be — as the entire season has been — a new experience for him. As Pavin ponders his pairings, one of the more important pieces of the puzzle will be how he gets the most out of Woods.

When Pavin spoke to Woods on Monday night to tell him he wanted him on the team, and asked Woods if he wanted to be on the team, he said Woods gave him the perfect answer.

“He said absolutely,” Pavin said, adding: “He said, ‘Whatever you would like me to do, I will do, just tell me what you would like.’ Which is exactly what a captain wants to hear from any player on the team.”

It will have to be what Pavin hears from every player on the team. Because when it starts in Wales, and the cold wind howls off the sea and the rain stings like BB’s and the home crowd is singing and screaming and cheering, things can go sideways in a hurry if the team is 12 individuals and not a single unit.

And as difficult as the picks might have been to make, getting the 12 independent contractors to become a team will be Pavin’s next challenge, and the final measure of how good the picks were.