U.S. Ryder Cup picks: Woods, Johnson, Cink, Fowler
NEW YORK – Tiger Woods was a no-brainer as a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup.
That required a little more than deep thought.
“It just came down to feelings,” captain Corey Pavin said. “I had a gut feeling about Rickie.”
Fowler, the 21-year-old mop top who only turned pro 11 months ago, made history Tuesday as the first PGA Tour rookie on the American team and the first captain’s pick to have never won on tour.
He was the only big mystery when Pavin announced his four picks at the New York Stock Exchange. Pavin also chose a pair of major champions, Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson, both of whom have played the Ryder Cup on the road.
The matches will be held Oct. 1-3 at Celtic Manor in Wales.
Fowler will be the youngest American to play in the Ryder Cup since Woods in 1997, but only the second-youngest player at Celtic Manor. Rory McIlroy, the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland, earned his way onto the European team.
“I can bring a little bit of color to the team, I can bring some youth to the team and hopefully, get the guys pumped up a little bit,” Fowler said. “But as I said, we’re all going over there to win, so we’re all going to be getting each other pumped and focusing on our main goal, bringing home the cup.”
The Americans won two years ago in Kentucky, and will try to win for the first time overseas since 1993 at The Belfry.
This will be the sixth Ryder Cup team for Woods, but the first in which he needed to be picked. Woods had finished first in the standings every time, including in 2008 when he spent the second half of the year recovering from knee surgery.
“It’s great to be a part of this team,” Woods said. “I’m honored to be selected … and looking forward to going back and having a great time with the team and hopefully, bring the Cup back.”
The eight Americans who qualified after the PGA Championship were Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Jeff Overton.
European captain Colin Montgomerie said Pavin used his four picks “to good effect.”
“Like my European team, the American side has an excellent blend of youthful talent alongside some seasoned Ryder Cup campaigners, and I am delighted to see Tiger Woods amongst Corey’s selections,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is a better event with him in it.”
Cink made his fifth consecutive team – his third as a captain’s pick – while Johnson is playing for the second time.
The final selection – and Pavin’s most difficult – went to Fowler, the first PGA Tour rookie to make the U.S. team. While the former Oklahoma State star has three runner-up finishes a pro, he still hasn’t won, and has not had a top 10 for three months.
Fowler played in the Walker Cup twice and went 7-1, including a 4-0 record at Merion last year. Pavin was not the least bit concerned that Fowler will be making his debut before fans who will be pulling against him.
“I think he can handle it, and that’s why I picked up,” Pavin said. “I think he’s a very mature young man. He’s had experience in international play. He’s got a very steady head on his shoulders.”
No one else stood out over the last three weeks. In the final tournament before Pavin’s picks, none of the 14 players on the captain’s short list finished among the top 10.
According to people with knowledge of the decision, the final selection came down to Fowler and big-hitting J.B. Holmes, who tied for 11th at the TPC Boston. Holmes went 2-0-1 two years ago playing before a home crowd at Valhalla.
Among those left off were Anthony Kim, who missed three months this summer with thumb surgery and was bumped out of the top eight in the final qualifying tournament; former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover and Charley Hoffman, who closed with a 62 on Monday to win the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Hoffman was not on Pavin’s short list at the start of last week, but the captain called him Monday night to say he had been considered.
Fowler’s selection gives the Americans five Ryder Cup rookies – Watson, Overton, Fowler, Kuchar and Dustin Johnson – and two players without a single PGA Tour victory. Overton is winless in his five years on tour.
Woods, who retained the No. 1 world ranking for the 274th consecutive week Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, became an obvious selection once he said at the PGA Championship that he wanted to be part of the team. He has been accused of being indifferent toward the Ryder Cup, and his career record of 10-13-2 is the one flaw in an impeccable career inside the ropes.
He will be going to Wales on his own – his divorce was approved two weeks ago – and no longer cutting such an invincible figure.
Woods has failed to win since returning at the Masters, although he appears headed in the right direction. He posted three rounds in the 60s at the Deutsche Bank Championship for the first time all year.
“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,” Woods said. “It’s still the same. And that’s to go over there and win.”
Europe’s team has six Ryder Cup rookies – Italian brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari, Peter Hanson, Rory McIlroy, Ross Fisher and PGA champion Martin Kaymer – along with Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald, Miguel Angel Jimenez and U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.
Zach Johnson won the Colonial in May, and the former Masters champion had been coming on strong in recent weeks. He finished one shot out of the playoff at the PGA Championship, and kept himself in the mix at the tour’s playoff events. Cink, who won the British Open at Turnberry last year, has been making slow progress in recent months.
“What was important to me is who I thought could play well in that environment over in Wales,” Pavin said. “That was my first criteria. Obviously, I like guys that are playing well, and that’s important. I wanted to find guys that round off the team and make it a team of 12, not 12 individuals that are great players.”