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Pavin's captaincy credentials spot on

Iain Carter | 17:03 UK time, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Phil Mickelson was doing his pre-Ryder Cup news conference at Valhalla and didn't know his skipper was standing in the back corner of the room listening to every word.

Mickelson was going through the motions, smiling away, dodging controversy and giving his usual diet of golfing cheese. At one point he suggested that if American players could win the President's Cup (the biennial US v non-Europe Rest of the World match) there was no reason why they couldn't do the same in Ryder Cups.

The eavesdropping captain, Paul Azinger, muttered: "I just hate that answer." You see Azinger understands the Ryder Cup in the way that Europeans do. He understands the history, what it means and that it provides the greatest golfing show on earth.

American teams in previous matches had seemed to miss that point. I'll never forget seeing a smiling Mickelson pushing a stricken buggy as his side were in the midst of their K Club thrashing in 2006.

Yes, Mickleson tried his hardest on the course but if appearances were correct, defeat didn't hurt as much as it should.

Azinger's task was to alter that attitude, not just in Mickelson, to alter the American team's overall perception of the Ryder Cup and, of course, he succeeded magnificently.

It seems that his chosen successor will have the same outlook. In simple terms, Corey Pavin gets the Ryder Cup. To him it's important, very important.

At this year's USPGA he told one reporter that he rated this biennial dust up higher even than the major championships. That's some call from a former US Open winner and it gives us a clue to how he will manage his team.

Corey Pavin with the Ryder Cup and the Radio City Rockettes

Pavin saw up close how a side can misfire when he was vice-captain to Tom Lehman at the K Club, but now it is his show.

Pavin's challenge is to build upon the momentum that the 16 ½ -11 ½ Valhalla victory should give to the US team.

It's amazing to think the Americans haven't won in Europe since 1993 when Pavin was playing the second of his three Ryder Cups.

No doubt he will endure plenty of media scrutiny as we reporters try to get him to say the wrong thing over his passion for American success. Plenty remember his Desert Storm cap in the war on the shore at Kiawah Island.

But when we get to Celtic Manor it will be fully 19 years since that controversial clash. It will hardly be relevant.

Pavin is an articulate and intelligent guy; he should be able to handle the questions.

The main issue he will have to wrestle with will be how to handle Tiger Woods. Every captain will tell you the want the world's best player in their team, but Woods has always made it clear where the Ryder Cup stands in his pecking order - certainly not in the same place as it does in Pavin's estimation.

This is what I'm looking forward to seeing most. How does Pavin make Woods as effective in a team environment as he is the rest of the time?

Will Woods be allowed his preferred early morning solo practice regime or will he be subject to team orders?

Will there be a Woods pod, if Pavin uses Azinger's idea of a compartmentalised line up? It worked so well at Valhalla, he must be tempted.

One other question remains - who will be Pavin's opposite number? The bookies have Jose Maria Olazabal and Ian Woosnam as joint favourites.

Olazabal is the preferred choice and were he to get the job, the defeated vice-captains from the last two matches would be up against each other.


  • Comment number 1.

    It doesn't matter who the captains are. All that matters is who is in form over the matches, and who is not.

    And since the Ryder Cup moved to Sky no one watches it anyway. The majors are far more interesting.

  • Comment number 2.

    whilst i agree that le tiss is god
    if one would have watched the last few ryder cups one would have seen the influence of good capts (woosie,azinger ) v bad capts (faldo,sutton)

  • Comment number 3.

    Excellent blog, got it spot on. I can't believe the comments of le_tissier_is_god. Are you real? The Ryder cup is the most important and exciting event in golf. Although the americans may have lost their passion in the last few years after this years performance I for one can't wait till 2010! The Captain is the most important part of the team! Look at Faldo his decisions were wrong from the start!( captains picks) and look where it got him! Losing the ryder cup for us! It would be amazing if woosie got another shot at captain with the home crowd behind the team I can see another European thrashing! Because europe will have a few major winners in the side by then!!

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm glad to see Pavin as captain. I always admired him as a player, and his wood to the green to win his major was something special. The Ryder cup needs good competition to ensure that it stays as the spectacle it has become, and I've no doubt Corey will do the business for the Americans. If the Euros go for either Woosie or Jose then then it will be game on. Can't wait.

  • Comment number 5.

    When people say the Ryder Cup is un-important, boring, that the majors are better etc. - it makes me wonder then why people are even taking the time comment about it. Are they being controversial just for the sake of it perhaps?

    If people didn't watch it, Sky wouldn't arrange the 30+ hours of live coverage it does. The Americans love it, the Europeans love it, it's a small minority of golf fans who don't really take the time to appreciate the history and allure of the Ryder Cup.

    Picking up on what jakefearn wrote in blog 3 and while I agree that Faldo was the Marmite of Ryder Cup Captains (I personally love Marmite but cant say the same about Faldo), his captains picks were good. Poulter stepped up and out-performed all of 'stars' such as Padraig 'charisma' Harrington.

    Captains on the American side are more important than European counterparts I feel. More is required to bring the US team together and Azinger did a fantastic job this year, I'm sure Pavin will do just as good. Being a Welshman I'd like to see Woosie take the captaincy again for the Celtic Manor, however, with Thomas Bjorn having a major influence on who is captain I'd put my hard-earned on Jose Maria.

  • Comment number 6.

    And the Last American captain to win on European soil-the biggest gentleman golf has ever produced

    Tom Watson

  • Comment number 7.

    I just find the 2 years of build up tedious, especially to an event that normally ends in a one-sided contest.

    Ask Harrington: would you swap one of your majors for a Ryder Cup win at Valhalla?

    And as Tiger Woods says: does anyone actually know Jack Nicklaus' Ryder Cup record?

  • Comment number 8.

    Like most golf fans, I love the Ryder Cup. I have seen it live and on TV, on both Sky & the BBC and it is still brilliant. It gives us the chance to take on the USA in a sport that they associate with, as opposed to a sport they invented and we dont really play or like football, where despite the World Cup being played on their home soil, half the country didnt even know it was going on.

    As to Corey Pavin as the choice of captain? A good choice. A passionate American who believes in the Ryder Cup is the best type of opponent we can have. I am looking forward to a great event. As to the Desert Storm cap, I have no issue with that. I was there in 1991 and I, like a lot of UK troops, thought he wore it for us and our US counterparts, not to declare war on the European golf team. Corey is a good choice, nothing personal, but I hope he loses!

  • Comment number 9.

    I have to pick up on Le Tiss Is God (he may have been once, but he's now just a rather plump minor deity).

    Firstly, you claim that nobody watches the Ryder Cup since it moved to Sky and that the majors are more interesting - well 2 of the 4 majors are on Sky as well so by your own logic nobody must watch them either.

    And as for Tiger's assertion that nobody knows Jack Nicklaus's Ryder Cup record, that is almost certainly because Big Jack played Ryder Cup in an era when it was not competitive and therefore not interesting. In the one year when it was competitive, everyone knows what he did - he conceded that putt to Tony Jacklin. By contrast, because Tiger is playing in competitive Ryder Cups, every golf fan on the planet knows his Ryder Cup record - and it's not brilliant. Believe you me, if Tiger's Ryder Cup record was as good as his record in majors, he wouldn't pooh-pooh the Ryder Cup anything like as much.

    The Ryder Cup is clearly the biggest thing in golf, to say otherwise is like saying the FA Cup is bigger than the World Cup.

  • Comment number 10.

    The Ryder Cup is most certainly not the 'biggest thing in golf', not even close, because the US doesn't take it seriously the ROW doesn't care (for obvious reasons). It may be the closest we come to seeing our countrymen win something in golf but so what? Mickelson was comparing it to the President's Cup not to slight it but as a statement of how it's regarded. Personally I find such enthusiasm for the Ryder Cup embarrassing (better than a major?).

    Here's Viner on the importance of the Ryder Cup in the US -

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm embarrassed for Matt Le Tissier.

    You've got a weird-stalker fan out there somewhere Matt....

  • Comment number 12.

    I can assure you I've spent far more time in the US than Brian Viner, and he's right that TV coverage is less than stellar.
    But that's not because the Ryder Cup is not big in the golf world over here.
    It's because golf is not big in the sporting world.
    Anything less than the NFL, a college basketball tournament in March/April and tape-delayed Olympics is minor league, relatively speaking.
    MLB, NBA, NHL are all widely followed sports but not in the same league as"football".
    And you'll notice Viner's piece was written before the Cup had been won/lost. Think the US awareness has been ratchetted up a notch.
    Mickelson wasn't comparing the Ryder Cup to the Presidents Cup, he was comparing the US performance in an entertaining exhibition to the semi-warfare of the Ryder Cup.

    and letissier is god . . . . but Harrington's performance in the Ryder Cup showed just how much HE cared about it - hopefully he'll stand down if he feels the same in 2010.

  • Comment number 13.

    It doesn't matter who is captain, it's all about the players performing when they're out there.

    Faldo wasn't the best choice as captain, but it wasn't his fault Europe lost the ryder cup.
    I'd point my fingers straight at some of the so called high profile players who were rubbish.
    Faldo and his troops just followed on the dodgy run of European ryder cup failures in America's backyard(our record is lousy).
    It doesn't matter who was captain of this european side, the american's would still have won.

    It's a different ball game over here though, the European's now have home advantage and have a great chance of winning.
    But let's not fool ourselves that anyone other than Faldo would have led Europe to victory in America.

  • Comment number 14.

    hey le_tiss_is_god and woodhatchboys....

    have u got ur opinions from a knee jerk article in the back of The Sun?When we feel the hurt of losing we blame it on any crap.
    The Ryder Cup is massive,record attendances,deafening roars,heated words,blanket tv coverage,this story about Corey Pavin bein named.....Tiger will play it down of course the same way that Monty talks up the European Order of Merit.....
    Nobody would ask Harrington to swap a major for a Ryder Cup win,it`s a team and every cog in the team is important even if they play crap and the captain decides who plays...when,what position and with whom,so that is definitely important.
    USA were brilliant on the final day,potential record breaking rounds and a massive support...i thought we were great but they were better.
    Bring on 2010 and i hope ur not finding the build-up too tedious LE_TISS

  • Comment number 15.

    Padraig was amazing this year aswell as Sergio, and not forgetting some other memorable performances by other european golfers in the Majors this year.

    BUT. It has to be said there is something wrong with the European selection process for the Ryder Cup. Yes the players who have the highest points get themsleves into the top 10 to be automatically picked, but is this right. I think not.

    The 12 best players who play as a team and thrive on each others shot play should be in the Ryder Cup team. Of course this will include some of the top 10 players, but it may also include players outside the top 10, dare I say it.

    Ok some of you might say it should be the best of USA versus the best of Europe. But on the day (or 3 days), it is not always the case that the best players perform as we have seen.

    Padraigs record for the last 2 Ryder Cups has been poor, but perhaps he can do something else for the team on the day. Perhaps Tiger Woods can do something different on the day. The Ryder Cup is a completley different ball game to a Major.

    I saw some footage of Faldo after one of his Open wins, he sang 'I did it my way'. Enough said.

    I take my hat off to the USA team at Valhalla, they were amazing. Hard luck to the Europeans, lets hope they have a great game at Celtic Park Manor.


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