By Julian Linden
KOHLER, Wisconsin (Reuters) - U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin denied reports Tiger Woods was guaranteed a place on the American team if he failed to secure automatic selection, insisting the world number one will be treated like everyone else.
Although considered a foregone conclusion that Woods would be offered a wildcard if he missed out, Pavin said a U.S. media report that Woods had been given assurances was incorrect.
"I've got quite a few people I'm looking at. I would not disrespect any of the players that are potential players on the team and obviously there was a misinterpretation of what I said, and that is an incorrect quote."
Immediately after his news conference, the television reporter who quoted Pavin confronted the U.S. captain, denying he had misquoted him. The pair exchanged words.
Under the U.S. team's rules, the top eight players on this season's Ryder Cup Points List will earn automatic selection for the October 1-3 event in Wales. The remaining four spots on the 12-man team will be decided by Pavin next month.
Even though he is ranked number one in the world, Woods is currently 10th on the list after missing part of the season following the sordid revelations about his private life.
He could still play himself on to the team with a strong performance at Whistling Straits this week but has indicated he would happily accept an invitation if he missed out.
"He's a hell of a player and I would like him to play well this week and make the top eight. That would be fantastic," Pavin said. "He certainly wants to play the Ryder Cup and he wants to play well.
"There's maybe 20 players that I would be looking at right now for those four spots ... and he's definitely high on the list."
While Pavin was hesitant to say Woods was certain to be picked, European team captain Colin Montgomerie had no need for diplomacy when asked what he would do if he was in charge of the U.S. team.
"Of course I'd pick him," the Briton said.
"He's a wonderful, wonderful player, the best player of our generation, if not a few generations. No team would be weaker with him on it, believe me."
Montgomerie was less forthcoming when talking about his own selection dilemma when he picks his team at the end of the month.
There are currently nine Europeans ranked in the world's top 20 including five who have yet to qualify for the team.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)