NEW YORK (AP) — Corey Pavin’s hand was shaking so badly that all he could do was drop the ball and hope it stayed on the tee. It was his first Ryder Cup overseas, and he had the opening tee shot at The Belfry.
Pavin composed himself and won three matches to help the United States to victory in 1993. That was the last time the Americans won the Ryder Cup in Europe, and the last time they successfully defended the cup.
Now the pressure is on Pavin to repeat those feats – this time as a captain.
“The nerves you feel at the Ryder Cup are nothing like you feel anywhere else in golf,” Pavin said Thursday as he was introduced as captain at a news conference. “I’ve won the U.S. Open – it felt like a walk in the park compared to the Ryder Cup.”
Pavin, who has 15 PGA Tour victories and won the 1995 U.S. Open, played in three Ryder Cups with an 8-5-0 record. The 49-year-old takes over for Paul Azinger, who helped the U.S. end a decade of European dominance at the Ryder Cup with a 16 1/2-11 1/2 victory in September at Valhalla.
The Americans have not had the same captain in consecutive Ryder Cups since Ben Hogan in 1947 and 1949. U.S. players lobbied for Azinger to return the night of their victory at Valhalla, and only recently has he said he might be interested.
But PGA of America president Jim Remy said the organization didn’t want to break with precedent.
“We have so many great players who have earned that right to be a Ryder Cup captain that we want to make sure that we support them and hopefully not leave any great player behind,” he said.
The 2010 Ryder Cup will be played at Celtic Manor in Wales.
Jack Nicklaus was the last American to be Ryder Cup captain multiple times in 1987 when it was played at his home course of Muirfield Village. He said the PGA of America likely picked Pavin as a career achievement.
“I don’t think that the PGA looked at it as Paul having the great success and job that he did … I don’t think that they thought that was probably as important as recognizing the players that have come along, contributors of the game, and honor him as being captain,” Nicklaus said at the Merrill Lynch Shootout.
Raymond Floyd, a former Ryder Cup captain who was at Valhalla as an assistant, said the push to bring back Azinger was a tribute to how important the matches have become.
“I think Corey will do a fine job,” Floyd said. “I think he’s the right age. He’s won his majors and played Ryder Cups. There are certain criteria that it takes, and all of those fit him perfectly.”
Pavin served as an assistant to captain Tom Lehman in 2006. He said it was too early to discuss whether additional changes would be made to the selection system. Azinger was responsible for modernizing the system to account for the influx of international players on the PGA Tour. He based points on money and doubled the captain’s picks to four out of the 12 spots.
Pavin joked that he wanted 12 captain’s picks. That’s not happening, but he indicated he would prefer more than four.
“Maybe between four and 12 somewhere,” he said.
Pavin made his Ryder Cup debut in 1991 at Kiawah Island. The Americans won that year, then retained the cup two years later. He went 4-1 in a U.S. loss in 1995 at Oak Hill in his final appearance.
Pavin doesn’t expect his new role to reduce his playing schedule next year. He’ll use those tournaments to scout out his possible roster.
“Every player has his own personality, and every player needs to be treated accordingly,” Pavin said. “So a lot of what I will be doing the next couple years is identifying what type of personalities each potential player for the Ryder Cup team would be and developing plans on how to talk with that person, how to motivate them, how to encourage them.”
Pavin could enjoy the enviable task of trying to decide where to play a healthy Tiger Woods in 2010. He spent a lot of time with Woods in his role as an assistant in 2006.
But even Woods has never been on a winning Ryder Cup team in Europe, where the Americans have lost the past three.
“When you’re part of your crowd cheering for you, it’s quite easy to just relax and play,” Pavin said. “But when (they’re) cheering for the other team for the most part, it’s a different mind-set, and that’s going to be a very important factor of what I talk to the players about. That’s an issue that it’s tough to get used to, but you can flip that around as a positive for our team.”