'Intelligence, experience' Pavin's deciding factors for staff
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin had specific reasons for picking Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Jeff Sluman and Paul Goydos to serve as his assistant captains when the Americans try to defend the Cup in Wales in October.
T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer, PGA.com
The questions are endless, but here are a few:
Who will earn the eight automatic spots on the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup team? Which four players will Captain Corey Pavin use as his wild-card selections to fill out his squad at the Celtic Manor Resort in City of Newport, Wales, in October? Can the U.S. carry the momentum it built at Valhalla Golf Club in 2008 to actually start a "winning streak" against the Europeans?
While it will take months for the answers to those questions to unfold, at least one mystery was solved at a press conference in Pacific Palisades, Calif., on Wednesday, where Pavin is playing in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.
Pavin announced he would be taking four captain's assistants across the pond with him -- Jeff Sluman, Davis Love III, Tom Lehman and Paul Goydos.
"I have hand-picked my four assistants because of their intelligence, experience and their ability to express their own opinions to me without hesitation," said Pavin, the 1995 U.S. Open champion and a three-time U.S. Ryder Cup team member, who boasts an 8-5-0 record. "Each of my assistants has a unique perspective to bring to the table, which I believe will bring a great balance of leadership to Team USA."
Sluman -- who earned the first of his six PGA Tour wins at the 1988 PGA Championship -- has never played on a Ryder Cup team, but was a member of the 1998 Presidents Cup squad and also served as an assistant to Jack Nicklaus at the 2003, 2005 and 2007 Presidents Cups (the U.S. tied the Internationals in '03, but won in '05 and '07).
"That's the big factor with bringing Jeff on board is that past experience as an assistant captain in a team competition," Pavin said. "I like the way he looks at things, because it's different from the way I look at things. Those three assistant stints with Jack Nicklaus were certainly on my radar. Also, Jeff is a very witty guy and isn't afraid to jump in and say what needs to be said."
Love is a six-time veteran of both the U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams. He's had his share of highs and lows in the Ryder Cup, compiling a 9-12-5 record in his six consecutive appearances between 1993-2004, with wins in both 1993 and 1999.
Pavin believes that Love's extensive experience -- along with his knowledge of the players he sees week in and week out on the PGA Tour -- will be beneficial to the team.
It also helps, Pavin said, that Love holed the winning putt in 1993, which happens to be the last time the U.S. won on European soil.
"Davis has been in the team format as much as anyone with the exception of Phil Mickelson," said Pavin of Love, a 20-time PGA Tour winner and 1997 PGA Champion. "He's very well respected by every player out here. He's been on the policy board and he's been in the middle of some very interesting discussions through the years. He's capable of making big decisions. All around, he's just a very well-liked, easygoing guy with a wealth of experience."
Flattered by the fact that Pavin would think of him, Love is still trying to earn one of the eight automatic spots.
"Corey asked me a couple months ago to consider it, and I said I'll consider trying to make the team, and the more we thought about it and talked about it, it's the best of both worlds," Love said. "I get to try to make the team, and if I don't make the team, I still get to go. I think it's an honor for me to be in this group. It's an honor for Corey to think of me."
In a small way, Lehman's appointment as an assistant feels like a shot at redemption. Lehman, the 1996 Open champ, was the captain of the U.S. team at The K Club in Ireland in 2006 when the Americans were crushed in record-tying fashion, suffering a second consecutive 18 1/2 -- 9 1/2 defeat.
"It has nothing to do with redemption with Tom as far as I'm concerned," said Pavin, who was an assistant to Lehman at The K Club. "He's a very good friend of mine. Having been a captain in Europe in general is a very good experience to have had -- not to mention, he's the last captain a U.S. team has had in Europe. Even though I was there, I didn't experience everything the way he did. I'll be able to ask, 'Hey, how did you deal with this,' things like that.
"He brings another something to the table, too -- I played with him in his first Ryder Cup match in 1995 at Oak Hill. He's a great friend and a great support system."
Playing-wise, Lehman has seen action in three Ryder Cups, compiling a 5-3-2 record.
Finally there's Goydos, who some might see as the odd one in this foursome. Goydos doesn't bring along any of the credentials the other three assistants do, having never played on either a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team.
Surprisingly, that's precisely why Pavin wanted Goydos. Pavin said, "his lack of team experience makes him an ideal choice." Goydos is an excellent judge of talent, Pavin added, as well as character.
"Strange as it sounds, I think the lack of experience is one of Paul's strengths," Pavin said. "I know I'm going to get a fresh viewpoint from him. He has a different way of thinking, one that's definitely different from mine -- in a good way. He will look at situations and come up with ideas that wouldn't even enter my brain. All four of these guys do that. We might have four different opinions, but we'll discuss all of them. Ultimately, it's my call. I guess it's a benevolent dictatorship, my captaincy."
Don't be mistaken, though. Goydos is certainly no slouch. He's won two PGA Tour events 11 years apart (1996 at Bay Hill and 2007 at the Sony Open in Hawaii) and famously finished second to Sergio Garcia in a playoff at the 2008 Players Championship. Plus, he's one of the most well-liked players on Tour with his self-deprecating sense of humor, which is sure to keep the American players loose.
Goydos is honored that Pavin called, and showed his never-ending jokester attitude when asked what the closest he'd ever come to making a Ryder Cup team was.
"Well, I watched it on television," he said. "I have watched it ... I don't even know what to say. It's going to be a chance of a lifetime. I'd obviously like to play well this year and at least have a shot. I think the closest I've gotten is probably 112th on the points list. But hey, you never know."
So what would it mean for Pavin to retain the Ryder Cup in Europe?
"It would be very nice, especially since it has been 17 long years since we've won in Europe," he said. "We've won a couple in the States since then. It's hard to win in Europe, certainly more difficult than winning at home. It would be nice for all the players to experience what a win over there is like. Davis and I have experienced that. It's quite different and very exhilarating.
"If you play well, you keep the spectators quiet and that's part of the intrigue of playing in a team competition overseas."