Ryder Cup never strays far from Pavin's thoughts


POSTED: Friday, January 16, 2009

Even long-time veterans of the PGA Tour experience new and exciting things.

Like drug testing.

Corey Pavin, recently named U.S. Ryder Cup captain, got the random honors yesterday—which is kind of funny, since he's a wiry little guy who averaged 248.1 yards per drive in the first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii. You can go to your local driving range any afternoon and in a few minutes probably find a half dozen guys who hit it that far.

That, though, is actually part of why Pavin is the new Captain America. Despite his lack of distance, he has won 15 PGA tour events, including the 1995 U.S. Open. That takes guts and guile, and that commands respect.

But he didn't have his wizard-like short game yesterday, and doesn't nearly as often as in his prime. He's 49 now.

The testing was an inconvenient end to a rather miserable day on the course for Pavin. For one thing, it cut into his practice time following a 5 over par in the wind and rain. The two-time winner of what was then called the Hawaiian Open will very likely have the weekend off.

That brings us to another reason Pavin's been entrusted with leading the Americans in 2010. Though ultra-competitive, he's calm and steady, too. Surely, putting up black numbers instead of red bothers him. He just doesn't show it—even when those putts on the last two holes lipped out—same cordiality, same professional attitude.

Of course he wants to make the cut, but missing it just gives him more time to think about the Ryder Cup.

“;I've got almost two years, but I'm formulating ideas. It's a work in progress,”; he said in the clubhouse yesterday.

He was considered one of the best as a Ryder Cup competitor, the U.S. winning twice with him on the team, Pavin victorious in eight of his 13 matches. Not all great golfers are suited for the unique pressure cooker of the event, but the tough little guy thrived.

“;He's tremendous,”; said Paul Azinger, whom he succeeds at the Ryder helm. “;Personally, I always felt I was high on the list of overachievers. But he's at the top of the list. Doesn't hit it long, but he gets a lot out of his game.”;

Now Pavin's job is to get the most out of his team—a squad of the captain's choosing more than in the past, with four selections instead of two.

He served as assistant captain in 2006, so he's got a clue. Pavin plans to get more of them from Azinger and other former captains.

And how's this for an advisory board when it comes to coaching a team: Mack Brown, Roy Williams and John Wooden. All they've done is amass 12 national championships.

“;I'll try to take the best I can from others,”; said Pavin, who knows Wooden via his days at UCLA, and Brown and Williams through a common friend.

He played some point guard in junior high school, but focused on golf when he topped out at 5-foot-9.

It's rare for pro golfers to be part of a team, rarer still to lead one.

“;But the really big thing is representing the United States. Then there's the history and tradition of the event,”; Pavin said.

It sure makes 5 over in the rain and a drug test a lot easier to take.