SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin had a heated exchange with Golf Channel reporter Jim Gray after a press conference at the PGA Championship on Wednesday afternoon.
In a report that aired on Tuesday night, Gray said Pavin would use a captain’s pick on Woods if he failed to make the U.S. team on points. Gray quoted Pavin as saying, “Of course I’m going to [pick him]. He’s the best player in the world.”
On Wednesday morning, Pavin said on Twitter that he was misquoted, and he said in the press conference that Gray’s report was “incorrect.” After Pavin finished taking questions Wednesday afternoon, he and Gray confronted each other in the Whistling Straits media center.
Standing nose-to-nose with Pavin, Gray called him a liar and said, “You’re going down.” Pavin responded, “You’re full of it.” The confrontation took place in front of media members assembled for Pavin’s press conference with his counterpart from the European team, Colin Montgomerie.
At one point in the exchange, Gray started to walk away, prompting Pavin to say, “You’re just going to walk off?” Gray then returned to face Pavin and the men continued jawing at each other in raised voices. Pavin’s wife, Lisa, also joined the fray.
At his news conference, Pavin denied Gray’s report but said that Woods was under “considerable consideration” to make the team. Gray said he stands by his story.
“Let’s straighten this out right now,” Pavin said. “I had a conversation with Jim Gray yesterday just outside the locker room near where we registered, and he asked me a few questions, and his interpretation of what I said is incorrect.
“There’s nobody promised any picks. It would be disrespectful to everybody who is trying to make the team,” Pavin said.
Pavin would not recount the details of that discussion with Gray.
“I don’t want to get into the specifics of the conversation really,” Pavin said. “But it certainly was something I did not say. Let’s just keep it as simple as that. It was incorrect.”
On the eve of the PGA Championship, Woods is ranked 10th in Ryder Cup points and is coming off the worst 72-hole finish of his career last week at the Bridgestone Invitational. Only the top eight in Ryder Cup points automatically qualify for the team. On Tuesday, Woods said he would accept a captain’s pick if necessary to make the team.
Pavin has four captain’s picks, which he will announce on Sept. 7. In addition to Woods, top American players like Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink and Sean O’Hair are currently outside the top eight.
“There’s maybe 20 players that I would be looking at for those four spots,” Pavin said. “It’s going to be very important to me to have everybody mesh and come together as a team.”
However, Pavin declined to describe any circumstance under which Woods wouldn’t receive a captain’s pick, even if he misses the cut at the PGA Championship and doesn’t play again until Pavin’s Sept. 7 announcement.
“I think Tiger would be an exceptional addition to the team, and he’s certainly under considerable consideration, as well,” Pavin said. “There’s a lot of guys that I’m looking at, like I said. He’s definitely high on the list.”
Woods and Pavin did talk Wednesday, but Pavin said he would not share details of the conversation.
“The conversations of that I have with all of my players or potentential players are between us,” Pavin said. “It’s very serious stuff sometimes that we talk about. … Out of respect for privacy and how I go about doing things, it won’t be discussed.”
Pavin said that he was not concerned about how Woods would be received by the wives and girlfriends of his teammates after Woods’s high-profile sex scandals. (At the Ryder Cup, the wives of the players attend team functions and are much more involved in the event than at normal golf tournaments, even majors.)
“I think it’s a non-issue, really, I think it has nothing to do with the Ryder Cup at all,” Pavin said. “I think whoever is on the team is going to be welcomed and we are going to be a team unit when we are there, which includes players, wives, caddies, assistant captains — everybody is going to be one unit, period.”
One guy who wants Pavin to pick Woods for the team is his counterpart Montgomerie. Not because Montgomerie thinks Woods will play poorly but because of the excitement Woods adds to the event.
“I hope that he is playing,” Montgomerie said. “There’s a huge aura regarding Tiger Woods, still, and it’s the one name that all our team will be looking for if they are going to play against him in any form of the Ryder Cup: Friday, Saturday or Sunday.”
Additional reporting by Golf Magazine contributing editor Paul Mahoney.