Pavin's radar scrambled

None hotter than Hoffman, yet he's not a Ryder pick

September 09, 2010|By Jeff Shain

When Paul Azinger took the job as U.S. Ryder Cup captain four years ago, he did so only after wrangling an overhaul of the roster process that doubled his wild-card picks and set a later selection date.

Azinger wanted the hottest players going to Valhalla, suggesting he would even take a Nationwide Tour guy if he scored back-to-back wins right before selection day. That never came into play, but the philosophy paid off when Azinger's team of upstarts ended Europe's streak of three wins.

As for Corey Pavin's use of the same cushion? Well, the calendar changed months.

Not that any top candidate helped matters, combining for all of three top-10 finishes since the British Open. But with the possible exception of Stewart Cink, the foursome tabbed to complete Pavin's roster could just as easily have been named after the PGA Championship.

If the later date was meant to identify the hot hands, Pavin's radar missed one. Maybe two.

Had Charley Hoffman's scorching 62 to capture the Deutsche Bank Championship come from nowhere, the impulse to write it off might be justified.

But no U.S. player not already on Pavin's roster owned more top-10 finishes since the British than Hoffman's three.

Combined total top 10s in that stretch for the chosen foursome of Woods, Cink, Zach Johnson and Rickie Fowler?

One.

Johnson's Sunday charge in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits left him one shot out of the Martin Kaymer/Bubba Watson playoff.

Nor had any candidate other than Hoffman won a full-fledged PGA Tour event over that time frame.

"He joined a large group that were on the radar," Pavin said. "We certainly looked at him, as we looked at a lot of other players."

A few questions earlier, Pavin had acknowledged that the final results at TPC Boston did nothing to alter his thinking.

If an 11-birdie final round against one of the year's best fields outside a major can't get more than a passing glance, what can?

"When you leave it up to a captain's pick," Hoffman said diplomatically, "you can't be disappointed because you had your chance to earn a spot.

"I wasn't even really on the radar."

Nor was Ryan Palmer, a winner in Hawaii and owner of two top-10 finishes (plus a tie for 11th) with new equipment after learning his old irons weren't made to his specs.

But Hoffman is the glaring slight for the Ryder Cup, which starts Oct. 1.

"I had a gut feeling about Rickie," Pavin said of PGA Tour rookie Fowler, who hasn't finished higher than 33rd since the British Open.

The numbers certainly argue otherwise.

jshain@tribune.com

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