DESPITE all that is read into the fact America won the last Ryder Cup without Tiger Woods and lost the previous three with him, there seems no way Corey Pavin will choose to bring a Tiger-less team to Celtic Manor in three weeks’ time.
Pavin names his four wild cards today and, while Woods is clearly not the player he was before his sex scandal and subsequent marriage break-up, it should be the easiest decision that the United States captain has to make.
Certainly far easier than the one which saw Colin Montgomerie select Pádraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Edoardo Molinari ahead of Paul Casey and Justin Rose.
A month ago it was different. Woods was next-to-last in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on a course where he had won seven times and had his own doubts about travelling to Wales.
“I wouldn’t help the team if I’m playing like this,” he said.
“No-one would help the team if they’re shooting 18 over par.”
But four days later he led the US PGA Championship for a while, then he opened the first of the FedEx Cup play-offs with a 65 to be out in front again and on Saturday he shot another 65 in the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Woods has not been able to put four rounds together well enough to win yet this year – he went into today’s final round in Boston 10 behind young Australian Jason Day – but the Ryder Cup is match play and last October he won five points out of five at the Presidents Cup.
So one down, three to go. Who else will Pavin pick?
Five months ago it would have been impossible to think Anthony Kim’s place would be in question.
A star of the last side, when he thrashed Sergio Garcia 5&4 in the top singles, Kim started April by winning in Houston and coming third at The Masters.
But then came thumb surgery and since coming back five weeks ago he has not made a cut and is 31 over par for his 12 rounds.
The 25-year-old former world number six is still in the play-offs, though, and because his possible alternatives will not bring the same energy to the team Pavin might well name him. Last year’s Open champion Stewart Cink and 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson, who came third at the US PGA last month, look likelier choices than the uncapped Lucas Glover, who did not win a game in the Presidents Cup.
Nick Watney had such a bad last round – 81 – when leading the US PGA by three and that this past week Sean O’Hair, six places below him at 22nd in the world, finished dead last in the second of the play-off series.
But 21-year-old Rickie Fowler, who just under a year ago won a maximum four points in the amateur Walker Cup, is already up to 32nd on the rankings and Pavin might just be enough of a gambler to take a chance on him – if, that is, he believes Kim has run out of time.
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