By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
KOHLER, Wis. – No matter how hard he’s pressed, U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin made one thing abundantly clear on Wednesday: He will not divulge the names of any potential candidates for his four wildcard selections until Sept. 7 – the day he’s scheduled to make the actual picks in New York City.
“There won't be any decisions made until September 7, when I have the press conference, and when that comes around, I will make my announcements and everything else is just pure speculation on maybe your part and my part, as well,” Pavin said on the eve of the 92nd PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, the last tournament for U.S. players to earn one of the eight automatic spots on the team.
Of course, all that speculation centers around one man, the No. 1 player in the world, Tiger Woods, who starts this week ranked No. 10 in the latest standings. If points were to close today, Woods would need to rely on a nod from Pavin.
As far as European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie is concerned, if he were in Pavin’s shoes, picking Woods would be a no-brainer.
“Oh, that's a very … that's a very difficult, dangerous, and undiplomatic question,” joked Montgomerie, “but of course I'd pick him, yes.”
The United States won the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla without the services of Woods as he nursed a surgically repaired knee. It was the first time the Americans had won the Ryder Cup since that stunning final-day comeback in 1999.
Montgomerie, for one, isn’t buying the notion that the U.S. side would be stronger without Woods.
“I think unfortunately having won the Ryder Cup without him, I do feel the American team would be stronger with him,” Montgomerie said. “That's how I see it. How can any team possibly be weaker with the No. 1 player playing? You just can't you can't see that. And I don't see it. He's a wonderful, wonderful player, and as I said, the best player of our generation, if not a few generations. No team would be weaker with him on it, believe me.”
Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan have already earned enough points to earn a spot on the U.S. team. Once the PGA Championship comes to a close on Sunday evening, everyone will know the other six.
“It's the last major of the year and there's a lot at stake here besides the last major of the year, certainly for the U.S. team, we are going to have eight players that are going to qualify at the end of this week that are going to be definitively on the team and that's very exciting,” Pavin said.
For Montgomerie, there’s still a few weeks left before his nine automatic team members are determined. The European side seemed to have taken a blow last week when Lee Westwood was forced to withdraw from the PGA Championship due to a calf injury that is expected to have the Englishman sidelined until at least the Ryder Cup.
The latest news, however, seems to indicate that things are looking up for Westwood.
“I've just spoken to Chubby Chandler here, his manager, and having spoken to Lee, he will be hitting balls in four weeks, which is great news for everybody in Europe,” Montgomerie said. “He's our top-ranked player and our Ryder Cup team will be greatly weakened if he didn't make it. So I'm delighted that he is going to hit balls within four weeks, and that gives him still another couple of weeks to prepare. He wants to play in the preceding event, which is the Vivendi Cup, and I would be glad to see him play there, but otherwise, if he doesn't, I'm sure three practice rounds around Celtic Manor will be good enough for Lee. As I say, he's our top-ranked player, he's our No. 1 player, and I'm just glad, so glad to hear that news today that he will be hitting balls in four weeks' time.”
Ryder Cup aside, Pavin and Montgomerie say they’re focused on trying to win the PGA Championship this week. In the unlikely event that either of them does, would they consider taking up a spot on their respective Ryder Cup team?
“There's no laws against it not happening,” Montgomerie said. “I said at the start of the year that all of my points were null and void at the start of the year, and that comment remains; that however many points I achieve here or win a major championship, which has been a goal that I haven't succeeded, as opposed to my opposing captain here, I won't be playing in the Ryder Cup this year, no. As appointed captain, a great honor it is and I look forward to captaining the team, as opposed to playing on it.”
Pavin shared Montgomerie’s stance.
“I would not,” Pavin said. “Hypothetically … I don't like hypothetical questions generally, but if I were to win this week and get enough points to make the team, I would certainly bow out and not play. There's been a lot of players that have played Ryder Cups and there's only so many players that have an opportunity to be captain, and it's a tremendous honor and one that I certainly do not take lightly and I think it would be pretty impossible to play and be captain. Captain is my first choice. If I did have a second choice, which I, you know, probably won't, but I think, no, I don't think it's a plausible thing to do.”