Rickie Fowler joins Jeff Overton as the only other U.S. Ryder Cup player without a PGA Tour win. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Eubanks: Not all of Pavin's picks were predictable
PGA.com contributor Steve Eubanks weighs on on Corey Pavin's four captain's picks and says, while three of the selections were obvious, the Rickie Fowler nod was a surprise. Eubanks also writes that while the Europeans are the heavy favorites, the hardest tournament to win is the one you're supposed to.
By Steve Eubanks, PGA.com Contributor
At the New York Stock Exchange this morning, Captain Corey Pavin picked Tiger Woods, Stewart Cink, Zach Johnson, and Rickie Fowler to round out the Ryder Cup squad. U.S. Ryder Cup futures remained unchanged in heavy trading.
Most will look at the selections and say, "Hey, three out of four ain't bad."
Unless Tiger was shooting in the 80s, leaving him at home would have been like pulling John Elway from the Super Bowl for a couple of incompletions. And unlike past captains, Pavin will not have a problem finding a partner for Woods. Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson are among his best friends and regular practice-round companions. Plus, Rory McIlroy's quote about the Euros wanting a piece of Tiger is just the kind of fire-him-up faux pas that could come back to embarrass the Irishman.
Stewart Cink was also easy. Four top-20s late in the season, and a solid Ryder Cup history, including a reputation as a steady, calming partner, made him the perfect choice. Everybody on the U.S. Team will want Cink as a partner and, while he might not strike fear in the hearts of the Europeans, you need look no further than what he did for Chad Campbell, Chris Riley, and Zach Johnson in their debuts to see what kind of contribution he makes to the team.
"It's a neat atmosphere," Cink said, which is all you need to know. Anybody who would call the Ryder Cup "neat," should be on your side.
Pavin's third easy pick was Johnson, a player who, no matter how much respect he gets, always feels disrespected, and therefore plays with a chip in his shoulder. Plus, Zach is a fantastic iron player, which is a great compliment to this year's crop of bombers. And he's hot. A tie for third in the PGA Championship and an opening-round 63 at the Deutsche Bank Championship puts him on the right trajectory going into the matches.
That brings us to the one question mark.
Of all the prospects on Pavin's radar, the choice of Rickie Fowler was the biggest head-scratcher. He hasn't won. He isn't hot. He's a grand total of 3 under par since August 1, and there is nothing about his game or personality that screams "indispensable."
"Obviously, he's deserving," Captain Pavin said, rather uncomfortably when asked about the Fowler selection. "He's a great player. We talked a lot about it last night. It just came down to feelings. I have a gut feeling about Rickie."
He does have one major fan other than Pavin, though.
"I don't think the Rickie Fowler pick is controversial at all," immediate past captain Paul Azinger said. "He is a great, young player; he is a big boy; he is a professional, and he has a great match-play record. And I will tell you this: confidence trumps experience in match play, and he has tons of confidence."
Zinger also downplayed the fact that Fowler hasn't played well lately, shooting as many 74s as he has 67s in the last month.
"Match play is different," he said. "There's a finality to every putt you hit, and he will play like he has something to prove. Look at what Anthony Kim and J.B. Holmes did in their first Ryder Cup. My best Ryder Cup was my first one. There is just something about confidence that you can't top, and Rickie Fowler is loaded with guts. This whole team is loaded with guts."
They are also loaded with length. With the addition of Fowler and Cink, this U.S. squad becomes the longest Ryder Cup team in history. According to Pavin, J.B. Holmes was in the conversation until late, but with Overton, Watson, and Dustin Johnson, Holmes might have been the fourth-longest hitter on the team. When Cink, who regularly flies his tee shots over 295 yards, is in the bottom third of the team in distance, you know you've got a healthy crop of bombers.
"Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, Jeff Overton: those guys crush the ball," Azinger said. "I mean, Stricker is not short, but he's not even in the conversation, and that in no way disparages him. This is the longest-hitting team in history, no doubt."
Still, Europe will be heavily favored, which should take a lot of pressure off Pavin's squad. The hardest golf tournament to win is always the one you are supposed to.
Look for Pavin to pair Tiger with Bubba Watson, Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson, and expect Mickelson to go out with the Johnson twins -- Dustin and Zach. Also don't be surprised to see two of Pavin's picks, Cink and Fowler, out together in both foursomes and fourballs.
And while the outcome, the pairings, the weather, and the uniforms are still up in the air, with today's selections one thing is certain: for those who dig the long ball, this one is going to be fun to watch.