Part of the work to identify who will make up the U.S. Ryder Cup Team is over for Captain Corey Pavin.
Eight players, half of them rookies, have earned automatic berths to compete in the 38th Ryder Cup against Europe. Pavin, who competed in last week’s 92nd PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, got a bird’s-eye view of those eight.
The list included Phil Mickelson, ranked No. 2 in the world, No. 4 Steve Stricker, No. 6 Jim Furyk, and No. 12 Hunter Mahan, who made the most of his Ryder Cup rookie experience in 2008 at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville.
The remainder of the group are rookies Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, who finished tied for fifth in the PGA Championship, PGA Championship runner-up Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton, who is the first to qualify for a Ryder Cup Team having not won a PGA Tour event.
Pavin said Monday at a news conference in Milwaukee that there is much work to be done before he announces his four Captain selections, Sept. 7, in New York City with the backdrop of the New York Stock Exchange.
How will the U.S. stock fare this October at the Celtic Manor Resort in Wales? The Americans have not won on the road since 1993, when Pavin himself was a team member.
In 1993, led by Captain Tom Watson, the U.S. defeated Europe at The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, England. It was a course many U.S. players knew well.
This fall, the Twenty Ten Course at the Celtic Manor Resort is a layout that several European Ryder Cup candidates are familiar with after competing in the Wales Open.
The road challenge, Pavin said, is imposing but not unexpected in his plans.
"It’s been a long time since we won over there. I obviously would like to change that statistic," Pavin said. "In '93, I played on that team and Davis [Love III, assistant U.S. Captain] played on that team.
"So, we have two players going over that were there and participated on that team. I think that's a positive, obviously, and I'm going to express a lot of things to the guys. The men that played at Valhalla last time for the first time, just think about what it would be like if it was exactly reversed, and you have 85, 90 percent of the people cheering for the other team.
"So I think it's going to be important to prepare the guys for the reception that we are going to get over there. It's going to be a different feel to it, certainly. Quietness is a very good thing for us over there. It's hard to listen for quiet but we are not used to doing that."
Pavin said familiarity is one factor that makes any visiting Captain and team’s mission that much more difficult. And, the host course set-up is under the guidance of the host Captain.
"Colin [Montgomerie, European Captain] has the luxury of setting up the golf course the way he thinks best to suit the European Team," said Pavin. "We are traveling to Europe, and just the traveling is difficult. The goal is to get these guys over there and play the best golf they can. You know, once the gates open and they are off and running, it's up to them to play."
The missing name on the automatic qualifiers is World No. 1-ranked Tiger Woods, who failed to qualify for the Ryder Cup for the first time. He had led the standings every other time since 1997 -- and now must rely on Pavin spending one of four wild-card picks on him.
Pavin would only say that Woods is "high on my list" and will be a "big consideration" when he announces his selections next month.
"I'm looking at him in essence like any other player. He isn't ... but he is," Pavin said. "I'm certainly not going to disrespect other players by considering him different from other players. I have to look at the way he's playing, the way he played, and I have to look at his body of work as well. If anyone can turn it around quickly, it's him."
Despite the shockingly low numbers next to Woods' name, Pavin came away from the PGA Championship encouraged as much by what he heard from Woods as what he saw from him.
Woods stated plainly at the start of the week that he wants to play in the Ryder Cup and would accept a captain's pick. Even after he closed with a 1-over 73 to tie for 28th at Whistling Straits, he joked that he could still help out in singles. His Ryder Cup record is 10-13-2, including 3-1-2 in singles.
"I feel my game is a lot better than it was obviously last week, and given a little bit more time, it's starting to head in the right direction now, which is good," Woods said. "And I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully, Corey will pick me on the team."
Woods tied for fourth in the Masters and U.S. Open. He missed the cut at Quail Hollow with the highest 36-hole total of his career, and only a week before the final major, he had the worst tournament of his career when he shot 18-over par at Firestone Country Club.
Pavin was asked about the pros and cons of taking Woods, and he could think only of the positives.
"He's the No. 1 player in the world -- that's a pretty good 'pro,' " Pavin said. "Obviously, I'm considering him highly, no doubt about it. He's playing better. I think we have all seen that. And he wants to play -- he wants to be part of the team. But it's going to be my judgment whether I pick him or not. I don't think there are any cons."
The intangibles, like team chemistry, remain a subject that Pavin also has explored. He said that among those outside golf he consulted included Ben Howland, the men’s basketball coach at UCLA.
"Chemistry is going to be a big part of it," said Pavin. "Obviously the way they are playing is going to be important. And, you know, those four guys that complement those eight is going to be a very key factor. You know, as we sit around the next three weeks, and I talk to the assistant captains and I talk to the players, the eight players that have made the team, pairing is going to be a very interesting part of that, as well."
The players will head to the Celtic Manor Resort, Pavin said, knowing their playing partner in the Ryder Cup.
"For the most part, come September 7, pairings are going to be somewhat in order," said Pavin. "We are not going to be to go over to the Celtic Manor and these guys are not going to be wondering who they are possibly going to be playing with. They won't be set in stone or anything, but the guys will have a pretty good idea of who they are going to be playing with or might play with, and I think that's important for their preparation and for our preparation."
Also missing from the list is Anthony Kim, the star of the American victory two years ago. Kim had thumb surgery in May, missed three months and has played poorly in the two tournaments since he returned.
But, the conversation continues to center on Woods.
"I'm very encouraged by the way he played last week," Pavin said. "He did a lot of good things. One of them may not have been driving the ball, but he grinded hard, he chipped the ball beautifully and putted better."
Pavin said that he plans to keep in touch with Woods.
And what Woods says might go a way toward what Pavin decides.
"I have to evaluate how he's playing," Pavin said. "And he has to help me evaluate, just like any other player. If he feels he wants to take himself out of it, then that's fine. If he feels like he wants to play, then it's my decision."
A closer look at the eight U.S. Ryder Cup qualifiers, in order of point finish to gain a berth on the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup Team:
World Ranking – No. 2
Ryder Cup Points – 6,095.063
Member of 10 U.S. Teams since 1995 – 30 matches (Record 10-14-6)
Has appeared in the most four-ball matches (13) of any U.S. player
Majors in 2010 – Winner of the Masters, T-4 in U.S. Open; T-48 in Open Championship; and T-12 in PGA Championship
No. 2 on Money List
Has 5 Top 10 finishes in 15 events this year
Ranked No. 7 in scoring
World Ranking – No. 12 Ryder Cup Points – 4,095.6208
Member of 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup Team – posting 2-0-3 as a rookie
Clutch, gritty competitor
Winner of two events in 2010 – Phoenix Open, Bridgestone Invitational
Majors in 2010 – T-8 in Masters
No. 5 in Money List
Has 3 Top-10 finishes in 20 events
World Ranking – No. 26
Ryder Cup Points – 3,894.3188
Debut in the Ryder Cup
Outstanding competitor, great short game to go with a Tour-leading driving ability
Winner of the Travelers Championship this year
Runner-up in the PGA Championship
No. 2 in Driving Distance
No. 9 in Money List
World Ranking – No. 6
Ryder Cup Points – 3,763.6428
Competing on his seventh consecutive Ryder Cup Team – 8-13-3
Majors in 2010 – T-16 in U.S. Open, T-24 in PGA Championship
Winner of 2 Tour events this year
No. 3 on Money List
No. 3 in Top-10 with 6 in 18 events
No. 6 in scoring
World Ranking – No. 4
Ryder Cup Points – 3,697.9750
Member of 2008 Ryder Cup Team, posting a 0-2-1 record
Majors in 2010 – T-30 in Masters; and T-18 in PGA Championship
Winner of 2 Tour events this year
No. 3 in scoring and in Top-10 with 6 in 15 events
No. 7 in Money List
World Ranking – No. 24
Ryder Cup Points – 3,573.8051
Debut in the Ryder Cup
Majors in 2010 – T-38 in the Masters; T-8 in U.S. Open; T-14 in Open Championship; and T-5 in PGA Championship
Winner of 3 Tour events this year; consecutive AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am titles
No. 3 in Driving Distance
No. 11 in Money List
Has 4 Top-10 finishes in 18 events
World Ranking – No. 46
Ryder Cup Points – 3,553.1478
Debut in the Ryder Cup
No. 4 on the Money List
Tied for third on the Top 10 category
Has not won an event this year, but has 6 top-10 finishes in 21 events
Majors in 2010 – T-11 in the Open Championship and made the cut in the PGA Championship
Had finished in the top 12 in six of the last seven events prior to the PGA Championship
World Ranking – No. 22
Ryder Cup Points – 3,074.25287
Majors in 2010 – T-24 in the Masters; T-6 in U.S. Open; T-27 in Open Championship; and T-10 in PGA Championship
One of the hottest players on Tour with 9 top-10s in 21 events
No. 10 on the Money List
Finished in the Top-30 in all four majors