Alan Shipnuck's Mailbag: Pavin's Ryder Cup dilemma, more Tiger talk

Friday May 28th, 2010

Your take on Pavin/Woods? If Pavin wavers, I think the TV network will lean on him. Tiger lovers/haters = huge ratings. -- Bob Cayne, Scottsdale, via Twitter (@twodownpress)

Tiger's middling Ryder Cup record is not because he doesn't care -- as many have suggested -- but because he makes his teammates uncomfortable. The guy has always been a lone wolf who delights in eating the heart of his opponents, and a few days of forced bonding can't disguise that. The huge number of partners Woods has burned through over the years is testament to the desperation of his captains to find someone who can play alongside him. Jim Furyk has done a decent job and the Steve Stricker pairing at the Prez Cup obviously worked out well, but otherwise Tiger has had bad chemistry with almost everybody else. And this was before the tawdry sex scandal that has offended and disappointed many of the other players and, especially, their wives, who are omnipresent at the Ryder Cup.

Pavin recognizes all of this and probably feels like the team will come together better without Woods, as it did in '08. I think Pavin's comments were to put Tiger -- and the media -- on notice that he might not get picked and thus reduce the potential blowback down the line. It would surely be the riskiest move of Pavin's life but he would get a lot of support from the other players and PGA brass who have held a grudge against Tiger going back to the pay-to-play demands in 1999. TV execs, for all their nefarious influence, will have no say in this decision. It's between Pavin and his maker, although even that gets a little confusing, since he's one of the few people on Earth who has had both a bar mitzvah and a baptism.

Why are there no PGA Tour events in the Pacific Northwest? No love at all since the '98 PGA. Sure, Sahalee's too short for today's game, but there are other courses. -- Robert Anderson

The PGA Tour favors balmier, drier climates like Pebble Beach in February and Dublin, Ohio around Memorial Day… There's no real reason, except for tradition and geography. The West Coast swing as it stands now is pretty well entrenched. It'd be hard to shoehorn another event in there. A WGC would be a good fit but they're anchored in the Midwest and there is already pressure to take them out of the country more often. Maybe the best bet is a Fall Series event to establish the Northwest as a viable venue. I'll mention this to Bill Gates next time we're at Augusta National together.

Are we ever going to see another playing Ryder Cup captain? There are some that would deserve this honor, mostly Phil. -- Ivan Bulic, Vienna, Austria, via Twitter (@bule1101)

Mickelson and Furyk are definitely going to be future Ryder Cup captains, and Woods, too, if he wants the job, which isn't a sure thing. The PGA has traditionally waited for a player to be 48-50 years old before naming him captain, which means Phil, 39, and Furyk, 40, are theoretically eight years away, but it's hard to come up with four good captains between now and then.
Davis Love, 46, is in my mind the clear front-runner for 2012, and I think he'll be a strong captain. But who's next? Mark Calcavecchia, 49, is the right age, he's got the right resume and he's buddies with Tiger, but he's such a goof-off it's hard to imagine the PGA of America entrusting its baby to him. Jeff Sluman, 52, basically ran Nicklaus's Presidents Cup teams, but he might not be a big enough name and by '14 he's a little long in the tooth. If the PGA deviates from its formula Brad Faxon, 48, would be a great leader, a Crenshawesque figure with a palpable pride and love for the game. But he hasn't won the major that seems to be mandatory to be named captain, a requirement I find kind of silly. The PGA could bring back Tom Watson, as no one in the game is more respected. But is he in touch with today's players?

If we're thinking outside the box I'd love to see Jim MacKay get a turn –- he's got a great golf mind, he's way into the event and he has a regal air that transcends his station as a caddie. But if these non-traditional choices are bypassed then the PGA could be a little desperate as early as 2014. Steve Stricker, 43, is beloved and respected. He doesn't seem to have the force of personality for the job but I think the players would rally around him. (Although he doesn't have a major, either.) If Stricker got the nod in '14 it's conceivable he could play his way onto the team, but dude is so low-key he'd probably elect not to tee it up. How about Phil in 2016? He'll be 46 and probably still a top player -- you know he'd love to be a playing captain, just to show off. Furyk in '18 could play his way onto his own team, but like Sticker, I think Gentleman Jim wouldn't want that extra spotlight. Tiger could be a playing captain in 2020 -- he'll be only 44 and looking for a memorable victory lap for his career.

Has Phil (or anyone else) been approached to "host" a tourney such as Tiger's ATT National (b4 he got bounced)? -- Brian Sullivan

Mickelson is the only player with enough star power to make it work. Given Phil's longstanding ties to both Torrey Pines and the Junior Worlds it's a no-brainer (at least to me) that he'll get involved with that event at some point. Maybe Phil could combine hosting the tourney with his favorite pastime, eating. The Waffle House In-N-Out Invitational Presented by Five Guys has a nice ring, no?

With all the injuries amongst potential U.S. Ryder Cuppers, what new faces do you think are likely to make the squad? Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler have to be among the most likely rookies to make the team, but I really like the way Bill Haas is playing this year. Thoughts? With Tiger sitting at #10 it would have to hurt the U.S. squad if Pavin burns a Captain's pick on Woods. (I'd leave him off the team, given the choice). -- David

Yes, the Ryder Cup is coming fast, as we can tell by all of these questions. The three guys you mention will be excellent Ryder Cuppers, but maybe not this time around. It would be awesome to see DJ in fourballs, trying to drive the green of every par-4. I think he'll play his way onto the team, but if not he's a likely pick, given his proven ability to close. Fowler is an interesting dilemma. He's clearly a birdie machine, but can you pick a 21-year-old rookie who hasn't won a thing (yet)? I don't think so. He has to play his way on to the team. Haas has made a big move this year. I like his game for foursomes -- he always seems to be in play. But again, he's got only one win and no Ryder or Prez Cup experience. If he doesn't qualify on points I don't think Pavin picks him.

Only 3 important golf questions left: will Tiger regain his dominant form? When? How? -- Andy Ross, Ann Arbor, Mich., via Twitter (@juniorspecial)

Yes. Next year. By winning six or seven tournaments.

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