Potential picks not making Pavin’s job easier

Too bad Ryder Cup eligibility is based on passports instead of

property taxes. There still might be hope for Paul Casey, who has

been living in Arizona for most of his adult life.

Ditto for Justin Rose, who makes his home in Florida.

Alas, those English-born stars were left off the European team

when Colin Montgomerie had five worthy candidates as captain’s

picks and could only take three. Montgomerie famously referred to

his dilemma as an ”embarrassment of riches.”

For U.S. captain Corey Pavin, there’s more emphasis on

”embarrassment” than ”riches” at the moment.

Some people thought Pavin was lucky he didn’t have to announce

his picks the day after the PGA Championship, instead having three

additional tournaments to allow players to state their case.

It isn’t getting much clearer.

Arjun Atwal won the Wyndham Championship at Greensboro. He was

born and raised in India and now lives in Isleworth, making him

eligible for the Tavistock Cup, but not the Ryder Cup. Turns out

Atwal wasn’t even eligible for the FedEx Cup.

Then came The Barclays, where the only Ryder Cup chatter was the

coincidence of a Scot – Martin Laird – leading the tournament. The

winner turned out to be Matt Kuchar, who already is on the

team.

The Deutsche Bank Championship, which starts Friday on the TPC

Boston, could go a long way toward helping Pavin figure out his

picks. Pavin will make the announcement a week from Tuesday at the

New York Stock Exchange.

It’s looking very much like a bear market at the moment.

Tiger Woods figures to be a lock to make the team, for no other

reason than he wants to play. And it helps that Woods took a

significant step last week toward at least starting to resemble the

world’s No. 1 player. Woods spent his final few minutes at

Ridgewood cleaning out his locker and going over the possibilities

of Pavin’s picks.

Like everyone else, he didn’t come to much of a conclusion.

Anthony Kim, the catalyst of the U.S. victory at Valhalla in

2008, won the Houston Open and was third at the Masters. Then he

had thumb surgery, sat out for three months, and has made only one

cut since his return – at Firestone, which has no cut. He is all

but forgotten now, although a good week at the TPC Boston might put

him back on the radar screen. The Ryder Cup does not start until

Oct. 1.

Most players believe Zach Johnson is the logical pick behind

Woods. The former Masters champion has a splendid short game and

won at Colonial, then finished one shot out of the playoff at the

PGA Championship.

The rest of them?

Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover had a chance to make the

team until he missed the cut at the PGA Championship. He had a

chance to show he was worth picking at Greensboro when he took the

lead in the final round, only to shoot 38 on the back nine.

Stewart Cink, a British Open champion and steady influence in

the Ryder Cup, struggled badly with scoring earlier in the year.

His game is rounding into form, but he still has only three top 10s

this year.

Rickie Fowler? Really? On a U.S. team that already has four

Ryder Cup rookies, does Pavin take a 21-year-old who has never won

a tournament? Fowler had a chance to win the Phoenix Open when he

opted to lay up on a par 5 instead of hitting 4-iron, and he failed

to hold a three-shot lead at the Memorial, hitting into the water

on the 12th hole. This is not passing judgment. These are

facts.

Nick Watney could have earned a spot at the PGA Championship,

where he had a three-shot lead going into the final round. He shot

81. Watney has two top 10s in the majors, but he has not won. Sean

O’Hair is more than capable, but he hasn’t won this year, either,

and hasn’t come particularly close.

Ben Crane won in San Diego and is a great putter. He has never

played on a Ryder Cup team.

Can anyone find two players who stand out above the rest? Can

anyone find two players who stand out at all?

The Americans were in about the same place two years ago. Paul

Azinger had his eight players, and while Steve Stricker was a

logical pick, no one else had really distinguished himself. Turns

out it wasn’t entirely up to Azinger, anyway. He revealed later

that he let his three ”pods” pick their fourth player.

This time, it’s up to Pavin. He is looking more for a team of 12

than 12 players on a team.

”Whoever I choose is not a bad reflection on them if I don’t

pick them,” Pavin said the day after the PGA Championship. ”It’s

not a slap in the face. It’s just who I think is going to make for

the best team.”

Pavin invited 21 top players from the Ryder Cup standings to a

barbecue during the PGA Championship, and said everyone there would

get a phone call with either good news or bad news.

”I told them they all are deserving, and the hardest thing for

me is to pick four and leave some guys off the team,” Pavin said.

”I felt everyone in that room deserved to be on the team.”

That may be true.

But unless something changes drastically this week, no one will

have much room to complain if they don’t get picked.