Woods a dangerman like never before
Corey Pavin's decision to pick Tiger Woods for the American Ryder Cup team was a bit like deciding whether to pay into a voluntary pension scheme. He wasn't compelled to do it, but he felt he should, even though there was no guarantee of the dividend meeting expectations.
There are no guarantees when it comes to the world's top golfer these days and, in truth, there have never been any when it has come to the Ryder Cup. In five appearances for his country against Europe, Woods has been on the losing team on four occasions.
In his absence, through injury two years ago, the United States were a rejuvenated force under the leadership of Paul Azinger, who was able to fashion a keener team spirit without Woods in the team room.
So there's plenty to point to the US being better off when he doesn't play in a Ryder Cup. Yet Pavin's selection - which was far from unexpected - might just pay off, especially in a side that looks to have an encouraging balance between experience and youth.
And the upcoming running of this biennial transatlantic dust-up might just be the one where Woods genuinely "gets" the Ryder Cup. Despite his mediocre individual results in 2010 this could be the one where Europe feel the full extent of his powers.
These are unique circumstances. Never before has the world number one required a captain's pick. He's routinely topped the qualifying list for an event that has always seemed somewhat further down his list of priorities compared with those of most of his opponents.
He has always cut a rather reluctant figure and once told me that he thinks we in Europe get too carried away with the event. As far as he's always been concerned it is majors that define a career and not performances in matches like the Ryder Cup.
Previously, Woods had no real choice over whether or not he would play for his country - and the prospect of doing so without being paid for the privilege doesn't sit easy with him either. It's an attitude of antipathy that can permeate through a team, especially when it comes from the player they most admire.
This time there has been an element of choice because he could easily have announced that he was taking a break in the wake of his recent divorce. Make no mistake he wants to be on this team and has genuine incentive to do well.
He made it clear at the USPGA in August that we should forget his "I wouldn't want to play if I'm playing like this" of the previous week and that he would be a willing participant if selected.
This alters the dynamic and furthermore Woods maybe recognises that for the first time he genuinely has something to gain from the Ryder Cup. Without a "W" - as he calls them - in 2010 perhaps the Celtic Manor clash offers Woods his best chance of experiencing a win this year?
And imagine what it would do for his rehabilitation in the eyes of the American public if he were to play a pivotal role in such a victory.
This is not to say Woods hasn't tried his hardest in the past. Indeed he was the US's leading points scorer with three out of five at the K Club.
It is just that the team ethos does not come naturally to him. In his changed circumstances I suspect he may find it easier to embrace the Ryder Cup more than he has done in the past.
Pavin's picks are as sensible and bold. The selection of Rickie Fowler is a real statement of intent. The 21-year-old will be expected to perform the role carried out to such great effect by Anthony Kim at Valhalla.
The precocity of youth can be the catalyst. Kim did it for Paul Azinger two years ago and Sergio Garcia performed the same role for Europe in successive matches after his debut in 1999.
Fowler took three out of four points for the US Walker Cup team at Royal County Down in 2007 and his two runners-up finishes in his rookie year are testament to his talent.
But he has been short of such form recently with a month of low finishes after tying for 14th at the Open in July.
Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson provide plenty of experience. Both are major winners and Cink has played in every Ryder Cup since 2002. Johnson won one-and-a-half points out of four in his only appearance to date, the 2006 clash at the K Club.
In being relatively short off the tee, the former Masters champion is an exception in this big-hitting American team.
The Celtic Manor rough is expected to be thick and lush by the first week of October and Europe's skipper Colin Montgomerie should be keen for the course set-up to put a premium on accuracy from the tee given the make-up of the visiting team.
Monty will also be delighted with the form being shown by so many of his team. Miguel Angel Jimenez's win at the weekend added to the list of recent victors that includes Edoardo Molinari, Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer and Ross Fisher.
Luke Donald's runner-up finish in Massachusetts also bodes well, while Padraig Harrington will need to find some form in Europe over the next couple of weeks.
Europe now know they will be facing a stronger American team than seemed likely earlier in the year and the two line-ups appear very well matched.
Pavin has invested in the world number one and in the boldness of youth. Monty and co will have to work hard to keep make sure the value of those investments don't grow too rapidly in the first week of October.