This was not the kind of long shot that made Corey Pavin anxiously hold his breath, like the 4-wood at Shinnecock Hills that won the U.S. Open for him in 1995. This was as easy as a 1-foot putt. Pavin picked Tiger Woods to be on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, regardless of the No. 1 player's tumultuous, winless season.
Woods actually made it easy for Pavin, the American captain for the U.S.-Europe matches at Celtic Manor in Wales on Oct. 1-3. Woods has regained some of his form, shooting in the mid-60s at The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs the past two weeks after failing to accumulate enough points to make the Ryder Cup team automatically.
It would have been hard to ignore Woods, no matter what, but his recent revival made Pavin's call to him Sunday night a formality - and a rare honor.
"I [told] him I'd like to have him on the team and he said, 'Absolutely. Whatever you'd like me to do, I will do. Just tell me what you would like.' Which is exactly what a captain likes to hear from any player on the team," Pavin said during a news conference at the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday. "Obviously, I was happy that he is very excited about playing. He wants to be on a winning team."
Woods was one of four captain's picks who completed the 12-member squad. The others were veterans and major champions Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson and 21-year-old rookie Rickie Fowler. Of the four, only Johnson has won a PGA Tour event this year. But the focus was and will be on Woods.
Some golf observers had suggested weeks ago that Woods might decline the Ryder Cup invitation to spend time with his two children and get his life in order after his recent divorce. Instead, Woods has made it a point to work on his game with Florida-based swing instructor Sean Foley.
"I'm honored to be part of the team and looking forward to going over there and playing and competing and hopefully bringing back the Cup, and that's our main focus as a team," Woods said on a conference call. "Whether I was a person who was picked or a person who earned their way on the squad, it doesn't change the overall goal, it's still the same, and that's to go over there and win.
"I feel like my game is not very far away. I feel it's a lot easier going into a pressure-packed environment like that, knowing that my game is coming around," he said.
But when it was suggested by a European reporter that he might have greater appreciation for the Ryder Cup this year than he has in the past, Woods rejected the premise.
"I've always loved playing in the Ryder Cup. I've always enjoyed being part of the team.'' he said. "I don't know where the perception of indifference is because I've always loved it. The team bonding that occurs, getting to know the guys, are experiences you never forget. I've created some great friendships because of it."
Picking Fowler, a strong young player who never has won a pro tournament, was a bold stroke, in the manner of his winning 4-wood on Shinnecock's 18th hole. He cited Fowler's 7-1 career record in the Walker Cup, the international amateur matches, and referred to criteria that he just couldn't cite.
"It just came down to feelings," Pavin said. "I had a gut feeling about Rickie."
Fowler said he was "just soaking it all in." He knew who the headliner was Tuesday, "Like Tiger was saying, we are going over there for one reason: to bring back the trophy."