So far this season, Corey Pavin has been playing a lot of golf and watching a lot of golf. (Getty Images)
Recent weeks bring good news for Pavin
The first 10 weeks of the 2010 season have produced a series of welcome developments for U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin. He's pleased that several young stars are performing very well and, of course, that the game's best player is on his way back.
T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer, PGA.com
U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin is making his seventh start of the 2010 season this week – his fourth on the PGA Tour – in Tampa, Fla., at the Transitions Championship. While the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in Wales is still a little less than 200 days away, it's very much on Pavin's mind.
"Since I announced our four assistant captains last month -- Tom Lehman, Jeff Sluman, Davis Love III and Paul Goydos -- I've been watching a lot of golf and taking care of a lot of Ryder Cup details," Pavin said on Wednesday. "My wife, Lisa, and I were visiting with Peter Millar, our official clothing outfitter for the team, on Monday. We went over some of the outfits we're going to wear at the matches.
"We're also putting the finishing touches on the design of the golf bags. Other than that, I've been doing lots and lots of interviews. I'm definitely keeping busy and the matches are quickly sneaking up on us."
Speaking of those captain's assistants, Goydos has made quite the impression on Captain Pavin since his appointment.
The same week that he was named as what many thought to be an odd assistant selection given that he has no previous experience in team competitions, Goydos quieted the naysayers with a tie for fifth in the Northern Trust Open at hallowed Riviera Country Club. He followed that with an equally impressive tie for fifth at another major championship staple a week later at Pebble Beach.
The top eight U.S. point-getters will automatically make the Ryder Cup team, while Pavin is allowed four captain's picks to be made during the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedExCup. And suddenly, Goydos' stellar form might be causing a predicament for Pavin, who admits he couldn't be happier.
"Yeah, he's played quite well," Pavin said of Goydos. "We've been joking with one another that he's making things difficult on me. If he makes the team, I might need a new assistant.
"All joking aside, I would absolutely love it if he made the team. He's a very good player. We'll see what happens," he added. "I always enjoy seeing Paul play well. If he makes it, that would be great. If he doesn't, I know he'll make for an excellent assistant."
Aside from Goydos, there have been three other welcome developments as it pertains to potential candidates for the U.S. team. Just before the four assistants were announced, 27-year-old Bill Haas, son of three-time Ryder Cup participant Jay, earned his first PGA Tour win at the Bob Hope Classic. Bill Haas is currently 12th in the U.S. standings.
A few weeks later, 25-year-old Dustin Johnson successfully defended his title at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for his third Tour win. Presently, Johnson is holding down the No. 2 spot in the latest standings, just behind Steve Stricker.
Finally, there was Hunter Mahan three weeks ago with his second career win on the PGA Tour at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Mahan, a standout member of the 2008 winning U.S. team at Valhalla, has soared to No. 5 in the latest standings.
"I think it's great to see the young American guys playing so well," Pavin said. "I want to see young guys doing well and putting themselves in position to make the team. It was very important last time at Valhalla having young guys on the team and playing well.
"You want them playing well and ready to win the Ryder Cup. I'm glad to see young guys stepping up and playing well. It certainly bodes well for the future."
While Pavin is tying up all the necessary loose ends in his captaincy, he's also splitting time between two tours. He joked that with the solid play of early-season Champions Tour winners Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer and Tom Watson, it's as if he never left the PGA Tour.
"The Champions Tour is an extension of the regular tour, in essence," said Pavin, whose best finish was a tie for seventh two weeks back at the Champions Tour's Toshiba Classic. "I've played with these guys my whole career. The thing about the Champions Tour is that they're playing at an incredibly high level of golf. It's not a matter of showing up and having a chance to win. That's impressive to me.
"Freddy has been fantastic. He's putting as well as he ever has. To see Tom Watson playing so well, he's a great ball-striker and wonderful putter from medium range, 10-20 feet, is terrific," he explained. "Bernhard is the ultimate solid player. He always has been, so there's no reason to expect that he wouldn't play well."
Lastly, there's the unavoidable matter of Tiger Woods, who announced this week that he's returning to competitive play in April for the Masters after a self-imposed four-month hiatus following a Thanksgiving car accident and ensuing sex scandal.
As the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, Pavin has had a keen interest in when and where Woods would make his return.
"I think, obviously, I'm glad he's coming back," Pavin said. "Most importantly, whatever it is that's happening outside of golf for him is getting worked on. I guess he feels it's time to come back. The personal side is his own business. That's his deal. But I'm glad he's going to be back playing. It's good for golf and I would love to have him on the team.
"Who wouldn't want him on the team? He's the best player in the world. He would make our team better," he added. "Now having said that, he still needs to perform to make the team. The four assistants and myself will be paying close attention to how Tiger plays just like we would with any other player."