By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
MILWAUKEE, Wis. – U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin had a busy Sunday evening of phone calls, reaching out to all eight players who automatically qualified for the U.S. team when points closed at the conclusion of the 92nd PGA Championship.
On Monday morning at a press conference in downtown Milwaukee, Pavin was joined by Paul Goydos and Jeff Sluman – two of his four captain’s assistants – to talk about the excitement of finally knowing what a majority of the U.S. team will look like when it heads to The Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales, for the 38th Ryder Cup, Oct. 1-3.
Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Jeff Overton and Matt Kuchar all qualified for the U.S. team based on points accumulated over a two-year period.
“I'm pretty excited,” Pavin said. “The team is forming. We have eight players now that have qualified, very excited about it. I am very much liking what I'm seeing with the eight players. We basically have four players who have played Ryder Cup before with various amounts of experience, and we have four rookies that have been playing outstanding golf, all eight of them playing outstanding golf. Very excited about everybody on the team.”
Mickelson and Furyk are the Ryder Cup stalwarts with 13 appearances in the biennial matches between them – Mickelson has seven, while Furyk has six. Mahan and Stricker are making their second consecutive U.S. Ryder Cup start after being members of the winning side at Valhalla in 2008.
Watson, Johnson, Overton and Kuchar make up the four rookies with Overton becoming the first member of a U.S. Ryder Cup team without a PGA Tour victory. In fact, Overton and Kuchar are the only two players in the top eight who have yet to win on Tour in 2010.
“The guys that haven't won have put themselves in position to win and they have played very well coming down the stretch,” Pavin said, which is true. Overton has had six top-10 finishes this season, while Kuchar has had nine, including a tie for 10th at the PGA Championship. “I've watched these guys play and these guys are winners. Even though they haven't won, they are guys who have a want to win and will do anything to win.”
Watson and Dustin Johnson were the only two players to make the team who weren’t previously in the top eight before the start of the PGA Championship. Watson catapulted from No. 18 in the standings to No. 3 with his runner-up finish at Whistling Straits, while Dustin Johnson went from No. 9 to No. 6 with his tie for fifth.
Johnson, of course, would have had a spot in the three-way PGA Championship playoff with Watson and eventual winner Martin Kaymer were it not for a two-shot penalty on the 72nd hole for grounding his club in a bunker.
While the penalty was heartbreaking, Pavin said he couldn’t have been more proud about the way Dustin Johnson handled the situation.
“Obviously it was an unfortunate incident that happened,” Pavin said. “The one thing that I will remember from this more than anything is the way Dustin handled himself. He was very mature, handled it ... I couldn't imagine a player handling it any better than he did. Obviously he had some issues with his play the last round at the U.S. Open; he played beautiful golf on Sunday, put himself in position to win the tournament, and the ruling was what the ruling was. I think it was the proper ruling. It was an unfortunate situation. But as Dustin said yesterday, his main goal was to make the Ryder Cup team and that's what he did and we’re very proud to have him on the team and very proud of the way he handled himself yesterday.”
A noticeable omission from the top eight is the world’s No. 1 player, Tiger Woods. He dropped down to 12th on the points list after a tie for 28th at the PGA Championship, and along with a bunch of others like Anthony Kim, Lucas Glover and Zach Johnson, will have to rely on Captain Pavin for a wildcard selection when Pavin makes that decision in New York City on Sept. 7.
Pavin said, Woods is still, “high on my list,” of considerations for a wildcard spot.
“He played better last week,” Pavin said. “He's working on some things that seem to be improving his game. So I was obviously pleased to see that happen last week. His comments to the press and the media are very positive. He wants to play and he wants to be on the team. Again, he's high on my list. He's certainly a big consideration, no doubt.”
While Woods might be a favorite for a pick, Pavin isn’t divulging anything just yet.
“Come September 7, I will let you guys know who those four are going to be,” he said. “But he [Tiger] and a lot of other guys are up on my list, and probably that list will grow in the next three weeks.”