— Captain Corey Pavin announced his picks to the U.S Ryder Cup team on Monday, and let's just say watching Bristol Palin dance might be more dynamic. The PGA of America press conference was more like going to a furniture outlet liquidation sale three weeks after it started. The pickins were slim.
“I really didn't have four players in mind going into the weekend,” Pavin said at one point. Perhaps it's remarkable he had four in mind after the weekend.
When the “sexy” aspect of the announcement is the selection of Rickie Fowler, when there are questions about Charley Hoffman or Ryan Palmer, you know you are stretching. That's no knock on Fowler or anyone else, but David Oreck is more of a household name.
For those watching on television, Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman went to lengths to point out her network had cracked news of the picks first. That's like boasting you scooped everyone by predicting Brett Favre would be back, or gas prices would fluctuate.
Keep in mind, we are talking about a golf exhibition here. There is nothing on the line at the Ryder Cup other than matching outfits, choice swag, photo ops for wives and girlfriends, patriotic pomp, PGA profits and television programming. Making announcement at the New York Stock Exchange does not change that. This isn't Wall Street. This is more like Madison Avenue.
The Ryder Cup is, basically, professional golf's All-Star game. Baseball, football, any of the other major sports are content to simply release the embellishments to the starting rosters. Golf feels compelled to take the Academy Awards approach. In the end, the comped competitors wind up getting more attention than the those who actually earned their spots.
The Europeans made their picks known a few days earlier. When Euro skipper Colin Montgomerie announced he was adding Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Edoardo Molinari to the squad, the buzz was about the quality of those who were left out. Some were floored by Monty's snub of Paul Casey – No. 9 in the world rankings – and Justin Rose – No. 22. That's to say nothing of Sergio Garcia, a star of Ryder Cups past.
Do you recognize the contrast? What stands out on the Red, White and Barren side of the pond is the absence of debate or even substantive discussion. Pavin, nearly devoid of excitement himself, announced he was choosing Tiger Woods, Stewart Cink, Zach Johnson and Fowler on Monday morning. And remember, Golf Channel had it first!
Oh, and pass the cream, could you please?
Of the four Pavin picks, only Fowler arrived somewhat undetected. Given the makeup of the American regulars, the first three additions were no-brainers. All that silly speculation about Woods notwithstanding, as long as he was willing and able he was going to be on the team. The only thing more certain is Jim Gray's “I told you so.”
Who among us, of sound body and mind, allowed a choice, would leave the No. 1 player in the world off the team? No one would open themselves up to that type of scrutiny and second-guessing, no one would put that kind of onus on the rest of his team. It was never a question of whether Pavin would choose Woods, it was whether he had the Titleists not to choose him. Woods played well enough lately to make it a moot point.
The additions of veterans Cink and Johnson also were elementary. Between Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson, Jeff Overton, Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson, there is a total of eight Ryder Cup matches worth of experience on the Local 12. Mahan played in five matches in 2008; Stricker participated in three. The other four don't know a Ryder Cup match from a kitchen match.
Although he was won nothing since the 2009 British Open, Cink is a veteran of four Ryder Cups and four President's Cups. Johnson participated in the 2006 Ryder Cup. He has won three times over the past two seasons, including Colonial this year, and was third at the recent PGA. He is 34 in years, seventh in driving accuracy, seventh in putting, poised and professional.
The only alternative might have been Anthony Kim over Johnson. But Kim, coming back from an injury, hasn't shown he is up to it. The Zach Attack made perfect sense.
After that, it was like tossing rubber rings at milk bottles. Pavin took Fowler, he could have taken Palmer, or Nick Watney, or Lucas Glover, or Sean O'Hair, or J.B. Holmes. What the heck, he could have taken Chez Reavie (136th in the world) for all it mattered.
It's not like the shelves were overstocked. When you were choosing up sides for playground kickball, and you got down to the last pick or two, you were just hoping they could walk and chew gum — respectively if not congruently.
Phil Mickelson said he would be eager to play with Fowler. “Lefty” should be eager to play with anyone after Monday's 76.
Fowler was a force in the last two Walker Cups, winning three of four singles matches and all four foursomes. If you can't find professional credentials, why not check the amateur resume. The 21-year old Fowler is talented and he will bring some color to the U.S. team, hopefully without bringing any to the clothing apparel line.
Of course, we don't know how things will turn out on Oct 1-3 at Celtic Manor in Wales. It will be a Ryder Cup for the ages. When these two teams get together, you can throw out the records. There's no such things as easy in this league. You can't win the tournament on paper. Turnovers will be the key ... and all that good stuff.
But it's hard to imagine the U.S prevailing in this one. Way back when, the Europeans would come to this fight with a handful of headliners and a slew of European Tour unknowns. On the other hand, the U.S. roster would be overwhelmingly dynamic and deep. Those parameters have come almost full circle as the professional tours have become increasingly seamless and international.
This European squad is a formidable blend of youth, talent and experience. Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Harrington are the veteran foundation. Graeme McDowell won the U.S. Open, Martin Kaymer won the PGA. Rory McIlroy is considered the best of the players in the game, the flying Molinari brothers have played well all year ... and so forth.
Pavin has seven of the top 20 players in the world rankings to work with, but Montgomerie has eight.
S'true, four of the top five in the rankings are Yankees, but two of them – Woods and Mickelson – have been less predictable than tropical storms swirling out in the Atlantic. The fact one of them had to be added to the team at large does not exactly instill confidence.
Europe has won five of the last seven Ryder Cups, including all three played on its home turf. If the U.S. team wants to hold a press conference at the New York Stock Exchange, that's fine. But no smart investor should be buying their stock.