Problems to sort out for Ryder Cup captains

Ryder Cup captains Corey Pavin of the United States and his European counterpart, Colin Montgomerie, played in many tough encounters at the biennial event, but they face as tough a task now as they did as players.

With just six weeks remaining before the eagerly awaited clash in Celtic Manor in Wales, Pavin has at least got his eight automatic qualifiers following the climax of the US PGA Championship, whereas Montgomerie’s final nine automatic picks will not be finalised until the Johnnie Walker Championship in Glenagles, Scotland, in a fortnight’s time.

However, Pavin, a famously combative player at his peak, faces an agonising decision as to whether he should pick scandal-hit world number one Tiger Woods as one of his four wildcards.

The 50-year-old Pavin is in a situation where he will be damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t — all in hindsight, of course, depending on the outcome of the clash.

There are compelling reasons for Pavin not to select Woods — not only because of his uninspiring form since the revelations broke about his serial womanising and all the unwanted distraction that could bring to the team in Wales, but also his poor record in the team event.

Woods has never looked at ease in an event where, as Europe has shown time and again, it’s teamwork and not individual talent that counts.

On the other hand, the event could provide Woods with the opportunity to banish some of his demons and regain some of his lustre with the American public by producing a series of match-winning performances.

Pavin must weigh all that up as well as the fact that only four of the eight automatic qualifiers have previous Ryder Cup experience and two of those, Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker, just one appearance. So he may feel he needs all the experience he can get to bolster the side.

Changing his tune
Woods, for his part, had said a week before that he didn’t warrant being picked after finishing second last at the WGC Bridgestone tournament, but changed his tune after finishing the PGA at two-under par.

“Hopefully Corey will pick me on the team,” Woods said. “Corey texts me a lot so, I’m sure he’ll be texting me or calling me and I’m sure we’ll be talking.”

Pavin sounded an encouraging note on selecting Woods following the PGA.

“He [Woods] played better last week,” Pavin said at a press conference on Monday.

“His comments to the press and the media are very positive. He wants to play and he wants to be on the team. Again, he’s high on my list.”

Others who may well feature in wildcard discussions would be 2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink, Anthony Kim, who was a standout in the 2008 edition and just missed automatic selection despite missing part of the season through injury, another 2008 Ryder Cup winner JB Holmes, and Sean O’Hair, who has featured prominently in the Majors this season.

Personal problems are not unique to the US team, however, as Montgomerie’s private life has raised questions over his remaining captain — though he gave questions about it last week short shrift and received a vote of confidence from the body that appointed him.

Aside from that he will more than likely have to do without a totally out-of-form Sergio Garcia — who has taken time off to sort himself out — and doubts that leading European Lee Westwood will be fully fit after he had to take time off with a right calf injury.

In terms of the wildcard selection, he faces a headache as players of the calibre of Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Justin Rose are outside the nine spots, and to Montgomerie’s chagrin have all said they will not play in the Gleneagles tournament.

Montgomerie has intimated that he expected them to play at Gleneagles if they were outside the automatic picks, but it remains odds-on that they will force his hand and leave it to him in what could prove to be a potential match-winning or -losing decision. — Sapa-AFP

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Pirate Irwin
Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin is a journalist with Agence France Presse , who has been based in Paris for 16 years having initially arrived for just a six month summer stay. Born in Ireland in 1965 and educated at Eton and Institute for Foreign Students in Tours after missing out on University by a large margin. His first name is a gift from his grandfather inspired by Radio Caroline but not appreciated by a Roman Catholic priest at christening. 

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