Corey Pavin would be glued to a clash between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy at the Ryder Cup this week – but he has no wish to pre-arrange it with Colin Montgomerie.
The nearest thing the contest may have to a grudge match – apart from Woods v Phil Mickelson at table tennis in the American team room – would be a meeting of the world number one and the 21-year-old Irishman.
They have never played together, but after hearing that McIlroy wanted it to happen at Celtic Manor Woods replied with a smile: “Me too”.
American captain Pavin and European counterpart Montgomerie hand in their line-ups separately, but Pavin was asked today whether they should get together on this one.
“I don’t think there’s any possibility of that,” he said. “I don’t think it’s in the spirit of what the Ryder Cup is all about and the way the pairings are supposed to happen.
“It would be by chance, or if either of us guessed right on what we wanted to accomplish.”
There are clear indications that Montgomerie will lead off with McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in Friday’s opening fourballs.
So if Pavin sends Woods out first – as Curtis Strange did at The Belfry in 2002, Hal Sutton at Oaklands Hills in 2004 and Tom Lehman on his last appearance four years ago in Ireland – it would almost certainly be because he and the player himself want a clash with McIlroy.
Pressed on possibly ’fixing’ it Pavin added: “I don’t know if it’s really against the rules, but I think it’s just against kind of what golf stands for.
“I just don’t think it would be the right thing to do.”
And on whether he and Montgomerie had a responsibility to provide the paying public with what they most want to see he stated: “I think there are 12 players on each team that are pretty darned good.
“Whatever match comes out there is going to be well worth the price of admission.
“We’ll just have to see where the cards fall, but I think it would be fun for me to watch. I’d enjoy it.
“When I’ve spoken to Tiger we haven’t talked about order or anything like that.
“All he wants is the same thing – to win. That’s what we are all here for and that’s all really he’s expressed to me in that regard.”
Pavin was reminded that McIlroy had also commented when Woods was really struggling with his game six weeks ago that everyone in the European team would fancy their chances against him.
“I think other people have said things like that to Tiger in the past and have maybe regretted it.
“I think anything that gets players fired up is always a positive thing for that player who is getting fired up.
“I know that Tiger is aware of the comment. If they do play against each other I think it would be quite entertaining.
“I don’t know if they will.”
The most famous incident of Woods being provoked came at the 2006 World Match Play in California.
Canadian Stephen Ames, his first-round opponent, told a reporter that he thought he had a chance, “especially where he’s hitting the ball”.
Next day Woods won the first nine holes, seven of them with birdies, and won the match on the 10th.
Asked how he had reacted to what Ames said and whether it had lit a fire in him Woods smiled and said: “9 and 8!”
In the 2000 Presidents Cup the caddie of Vijay Singh wore a cap that had written on it “Tiger Who?”
The pair met in the singles and after recording victory on the 17th and being asked about the cap Woods said only “2 and 1”.
Now McIlroy could be the one in the firing line. But following the sex scandal that resulted in Swedish wife Elin divorcing him Woods has yet to record a top-three finish in a tournament and at the
Bridgestone Invitational last month he was 78th out of 80 and 18 over par.
He has played better than that since, but does he have the game to take it out on McIlroy?
If, that is, he gets the chance.