Pavin's picks give boost to weak team

Corey Pavin's always done things his way and that independent streak got another maverick, Rickie Fowler, into his first Ryder Cup.

"It just came down to feelings," Pavin said Tuesday in announcing his picks, "I had a gut feeling about Rickie."

Some will undoubtedly shake their heads at the choice of golf's dashing young D'Artagnan because no American Ryder Cup captain's ever used one of his picks on a player who's never won anything.

But that's both misleading and short-sighted.

Fowler is just 21. He had a 7-1 record in the Walker Cup as an amateur, so he can handle the format and the pressure.

And, be sure, he will win many times and be a mainstay of U.S. teams for a very long time.

While the SoCal dirt bike rider certainly has style -- if that's an appropriate description for the orange Popsicle outfits he insists on wearing on Sundays to honor his alma mater, Oklahoma State -- it doesn't come at the expense of substance.

Despite the pretty boy looks and the fashionista tendencies, he's far from being golf's Anna Kournikova.

Fowler's old-school, home-made swing is one of the most feared on Tour while the kid himself is fearless.

And maybe that's what really caught the eye of Pavin, who himself was the epitome of the dogged little guy who punched way above his weight.

"Experience in some ways is a little bit overrated, I believe," said Tom Lehman, a former captain himself who will be one of Pavin's assistants in Wales.

"I think Corey picking Rickie Fowler is an example of seeing a kid who is very, very tough mentally, very strong, very fearless in the way he plays and realizing that even though this is his first Ryder Cup, he's able to handle that kind of situation."

Pavin laid his cards on the table when discussing why he picked Fowler along with Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson and Stewart Cink.

"What was important to me is who I thought could play well in that environment over in Wales on European soil," he said. "That was my first criteria."

Pavin thinks Fowler can handle the cauldron that is the Ryder Cup and his high-energy enthusiasm certainly won't hurt in the team room.

In some ways he'll be this year's Anthony Kim, who two years ago in Louisville was pivotal to the American upset.

"I can bring, I guess, a little bit of color to the team, I can bring some youth to the team and hopefully get the guys pumped up a little bit," Fowler said.

And, beyond all that, who doesn't want to see Fowler go up against Europe's top young gun, Rory McIlroy, in the Sunday singles?

Pavin's three other captain's choices picked themselves: Woods, Johnson and Cink were obvious candidates given the inexperience -- and inconsistencies -- within the American team.

Pavin's taking four rookies to Celtic Manor in three weeks' time. He needed some experience. And grit.

Although he'd never admit it, he has to be concerned with some of the eight who played their way onto the team.

Jeff Overton's never won in five years on Tour, Dustin Johnson's had well-chronicled troubles when it's come to closing the deal on Sundays and Bubba Watson simply lost his head in the PGA Championship playoff with Martin Kaymer.

Factor in, too, that Pavin has no idea which Phil Mickelson will show up and that Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker aren't quite firing on all cylinders.

In that context, he made very smart choices.

Johnson's a pitbull who won't be waving any white flags.

"Team play, team sports in general, it's really something that drives me as a competitor and when you incorporate a team element and chemistry into golf, it makes it just that much more special," he said. "Having your nation's flag on your sleeve ... makes it that much more special."

Cink won the British Open last year at Turnberry and has been playing better of late. Beyond that, "He gets along with just about everybody," Pavin said.

"He's just a great guy to have around the team room."

And then there's Woods.

Perhaps when he was at his lowest ebb, after the Bridgestone Invitational in early August, there may have been a question mark about him.

Even then, 14 majors and 71 PGA Tour victories should've counted for something but Pavin's decision was made easier as the play of the world's No. 1 steadily improved since hooking up with swing coach Sean Foley.

And don't overlook the importance of Woods wanting to be on the team.

"I've always loved playing the Ryder Cup," he said Tuesday.

"I don't know where the perception of indifference is, because I've always loved it. The team bonding that occurs, getting to know the guys and everyone there that's associated with our team are experiences that you'll never forget and I've created some great friendships because of it."

In all, Pavin will still be leading an underdog team to Wales.

But in making these picks, he's given himself a chance of becoming the first American captain to win on foreign soil since 1993.