Corey Pavin's diminutive stature often deprived him the option of taking the risk in pursuit of the reward, but this time his size was not a factor, and so he did what he seldom had the opportunity to do before. He chose not to lay up.
When Pavin made Rickie Fowler one of his four captain's picks, he staked his legacy as the U.S. Ryder Cup captain on it. He had options, several of them, but ultimately he took the risky route.
Fowler is 21, a PGA Tour rookie who hasn't won, who was 20th in Ryder Cup points, who hasn't had a top 10 finish in three months (since the Memorial), who in his last four tournaments, all with world class fields, has finished tied for 33rd, tied for 58th, tied for 36th and tied for 41st.
"Obviously he's deserving," Pavin said at a news conference at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.
It wasn't obvious at all. Has there ever been a captain's pick with less to show, on paper, at least?
Pavin cited Fowler's Walker Cup record -- 7-1, playing for the U.S. in both 2007 and 2009 -- which portends nothing. Those were spirited competitions, surely, but were played with the safety net of an amateur stage. The Ryder Cup is a high-wire act without a net.
"There are lot of guys deserving to be on the team," Pavin said. "There were a lot of people in the mix. We [Pavin and his assistant captains] talked a lot about it last night. It just came down to feelings. I have a gut feeling about Rickie. He's a very good player."
Pavin's gut, figuratively, at least, is not to be taken lightly; he played at UCLA and is often referred to as the Gutty Little Bruin. This pick took guts, too. Among those ahead of Fowler in Ryder Cup points were J.B. Holmes, Sean O'Hair and Nick Watney, all of whom have multiple wins on the PGA Tour and have played better of late than Fowler.
They were the safer picks, but Fowler is the more exciting one. He is talented and colorful and will add youthful exuberance to the mix, which is not without its merits.
"I bring a little bit of color to the team and some youth to the team, maybe get them pumped up a little bit," Fowler said. "I do think I can bring some energy. Obviously that's one thing I'd like to do, keep the guys fired up."
But he wasn't chosen to be a cheerleader, notwithstanding the fact that he occasionally dresses like one. Only his performance will count and it will determine whether Pavin will reap the reward for taking the risk.
This was the one pick that exposes him to criticism in the event it doesn't pan out. Tiger Woods was a given. So was Zach Johnson. Stewart Cink has played on four Ryder Cup and four Presidents Cup teams. Fowler is an unknown quantity.
"He can handle it," Pavin said.
You can bet on it. Pavin already has.
-- John Strege
Below: video of *Fowler, Tiger Woods, and Zach Johnson, each of whom were selected to the Ryder Cup team by Corey Pavin.*