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Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson, it says here that your lives are about to change. Winning the PGA Championship, great feat that it is, isn't necessarily a life-changer. Do you think the daily routines of Mark Brooks or Wayne Grady or Shaun Micheel were turned on their heads after their names were engraved on the Wanamaker Trophy? No, the game-changer is playing in the Ryder Cup. Ask Davis Love III (a PGA winner) or Boo Weekley (a Cup player in 2008) or John Feinstein (the author of A Good Walk Spoiled, which gives an insider account of the 1993 Ryder Cup matches). The consolation prize for your excellent adventures last week at Whistling Straits is an all-expenses-paid Ryder Cup--themed trip in seven weeks to Wales, where you will learn, in ways you never before knew, what it means to represent your country, to be on a team and how best to resist the urge to vomit while standing on a 1st tee. That's how it's always described on TV, at least since Feinstein's book came out back in '95. Enjoy!
Nothing in golf seems to create media mania like the Ryder Cup. Bubba already seems to understand what he's getting into. Shortly after he had lost the PGA title to Martin Kaymer in a three-hole playoff, Watson said, "You're playing for the U.S.A. That's my Olympics. I've wanted to play the Ryder Cup my whole life. I've made many a putt when I was 10 years old to win the Ryder Cup."
On all your better golf websites, there's trenchant analysis of the eight players who have now officially made the U.S. team on points: Bubba and DJ, plus Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Jeff Overton and Matt Kuchar. Corey Pavin will announce his four captain's picks on Sept. 7. The omission in that eightsome is almost shocking. Tiger Woods, still the No. 1 player in the world according to the rankings, did not qualify for the U.S. team on points. He needed a top five finish at the PGA to make it and instead shot a Sunday 73 to come in 28th. On his way out of Wisconsin, Woods told reporters, "Hopefully, Corey will pick me for the team." That has to be one of the most endearing public comments Woods has ever made.
So Pavin has three weeks and three tournaments to make the biggest pre-Cup decision of his captaincy, maybe the biggest decision any captain has ever faced. Everyone has advice for him. Paul Azinger, the winning captain two years ago, told a Chicago radio station that Pavin can't pick Tiger, not the way Woods is playing. Colin Montgomerie, captain of the European team, has the opposite view. Asked if he would pick Woods, Monty said at a press conference last week, "Oh, that's a very difficult, dangerous and undiplomatic question. But of course I'd pick him, yes." Reporters laughed.
That was in the interview room at Whistling Straits on Wednesday, in front of maybe 100 reporters and PGA officials gathered for the captains' joint press conference. It was not a great Wednesday for golf.
The previous day Jim Gray had reported on Golf Channel that Pavin told him that he was going to select Woods for the team no matter what. Wednesday was denial day for Pavin. During a practice round Pavin sent out his first rebuttal—via Twitter. Pavin wrote, "Jim Gray has misquoted me re: picking Tiger. I never said such a thing and will not say a thing until 09/07." Later that day at the press conference, Pavin said Gray's report was "incorrect."
By tradition the Ryder Cup captains' press conference is a feel-good session meant to generate Ryder Cup interest. It did that last week, though maybe not the way the PGA of America, which oversees U.S. involvement in the Ryder Cup, intended.
At the end of the press conference Pavin left the elevated platform and Gray sought him out. The two exchanged inflammatory words and each was in the other's face. Lisa Pavin, the captain's wife, pressed in, holding a cellphone above her and saying that she was recording the argument.
Later, Corey Pavin told reporters that Gray had called him "a liar." Pavin also said that Gray had said to him, "You're going down!"
In Thursday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal the Quote of the Day was Jim Gray of Golf Channel telling the Ryder Cup captain, "You're going down!" So much for the feel-good press conference.