Corey Pavin today handed Tiger Woods the chance to go into the Ryder Cup record books – as the American with more defeats than any other.
United States captain Pavin has handed his wild cards to the world number one, fellow major winners Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson and to uncapped 21-year-old Rickie Fowler, who will create his own history by making the step up from the amateur Walker Cup to the Ryder Cup in just one year.
Fowler, the third youngest player ever to represent America in the match, was almost certainly preferred to Anthony Kim, a star of the winning 2008 team who has yet to make a halfway cut since returning from thumb surgery last month.
Woods, needing to be picked for the first time after failing to win a tournament since his sex scandal, has vowed to do all he can to keep the trophy in American hands after they won two years ago while he was out recovering from knee surgery.
But in five previous appearances he has tasted victory only once – Boston in 1999 – and if he is beaten in four of his five games he will take over from Ray Floyd as his side’s biggest loser since the event started in 1927.
Floyd lost 16 of his 31 games between 1969 and 1993. Woods has lost 13 out of 25 since his 1997 debut at Valderrama.
“It’s great to be part of this team,” said Woods, who has just gone six events without a top 10 finish for the first time in his career.
“I’m honoured to be selected. I’ve been to Wales previously (for the 1995 Walker Cup, which he also lost) and I’m looking forward to going back, having a great time with the team and hopefully bringing the cup back.”
Asked about a perception of him not caring too much about the competition – he said in 2002 he would rather win a million dollars than the cup – Woods hit back.
“I’ve always loved playing the Ryder Cup and enjoy being part of the team. I don’t know where this perception of indifference comes from because I have always loved it.
“They are experiences you will never forget and you create friendships.”
As for his form, he added: “I think my game is not far away and that makes it a lot easier to go into a pressure-packed environment.”
Woods scored a maximum five points in last October’s Presidents Cup, but accepts that playing Europe – especially away from home – is very different.
“The atmosphere is certainly different – it’s definitely more charged. But it’s great fun to play in front of fans that are that excited.
“You want to play well to make the crowd go quiet. That’s the objective of every team.”
Pavin insisted that he waited until last night before deciding on his four.
Europe go in as favourites, but Pavin stated: “I think our team is very good and I think these four complement the other eight very well. That was the goal.”
Woods is expected to play with world number four Steve Stricker, with whom he won four out of four times in San Francisco 11 months ago.
But Pavin commented: “There are a lot of combinations out there and I’m not afraid to put anybody with anybody. Nothing is set in stone yet.”
On his thought process about Woods he added: “I just watched and waited.
“I was hoping he would qualify on points, but he didn’t and so I waited to see how he played.”
Woods has come 12th and 11th the last two weeks.
“He is one of 12 on the team and everyone is just as important. The objective is to have 12 players that make up Team USA and have one goal in mind.”
Cink, last year’s Open champion, and Johnson, the 2007 Masters winner, were safe choices, adding experience to a side that already had four rookies.
But after deciding Kim had run out of time to prove his recovery – he could have waited until the day before the match starts on October 1 – Pavin went with a gut feeling that Fowler was ready.
The young Californian won seven out of eight games in two Walker Cups – just like Luke Donald did – and was with Dustin Johnson on the side that beat a Britain and Ireland team including Rory McIlroy in the North three years ago.
“It was tough to sleep last night,” admitted Fowler.
“It’s awesome to be selected and I have to thank Corey for giving me the opportunity.
“I’m not Anthony Kim, but I do think I could bring some energy and get the guys pumped up.”
So the Americans will have five debutants compared to Europe’s six.
Each side has four members of the world’s top 10, but Colin Montgomerie’s line-up – even without Paul Casey, whom he left out – has eight of the top 20 compared to Pavin’s seven.