With a tip of the cap to Bill Simmons, originator (as I know it) of the Director of Common Sense position for NFL teams, I am going to apply for the position for the US Ryder Cup team. I would like ten minutes with US team captain Corey Pavin to impart some wisdom as tensions rise in advance of the Ryder Cup, which will be played in early October in Wales.
Most golf fans will be aware of the mess Pavin is making in the lead up to his September 7th announcement of his four captain’s picks to round out his team of twelve that will attempt to retain the Ryder Cup from those pesky and heavily accented Europeans. The big, BIG, question to be answered leading into last weekend’s PGA Championship was whether or not Tiger Woods would play well enough to automatically qualify for the team. He did not and is now reliant on Pavin to select him to the team. After some waffling about his desire to play on the team, Tiger made it clear that he believes he can contribute. Tiger wants to be there.
Last Tuesday, the Golf Channel’s Jim Gray quoted Pavin as having already made up his mind on the issue. Pavin’s quote was something to the effect of, “Of course I’m going to [pick him]. He’s the best player in the world.” Pavin then tweeted that he absolutely hadn’t told Gray that which was followed by a near throw down after Pavin’s press conference last Wednesday.
I read this morning that Pavin was encouraged by Tiger’s play this past week but he had not yet made up his mind. He again referenced that September 7th announcement date and seems to be saying, “Look at me, look at me! Need I remind you that I am extremely important and I alone hold the answers to that which you seek? If you think that I will forego milking this drama for all it is worth, you are sadly mistaken. Other than my daily updates confirming that I am still making up my mind, I will have nothing further to say on this matter.”
As Pavin’s Director of Common Sense, I would tell Corey to stop talking about the current form of his potential picks and start thinking and talking about the collective dynamic of the team he is putting together. The Ryder Cup is almost always won on emotion, momentum and team work; not simply the team that looks best on paper. Steve Elkington’s play this weekend proves the notion that any seasoned tour player can compete with the world’s best if they get on a roll with some confidence.
I would also ask Corey to explain the logic of the game he is playing with the Tiger Woods decision. I would suggest that he consider making up his mind on Tiger (if he hasn’t already) and make the announcement this week. Alternatively, he should tell the media that they will not hear from him again until September 7th. He has to put out the flames he has sparked.
I suspect that Pavin would correct my impression that he is on a bit of a power trip and inform me that he is purposely being vague on the Tiger topic to mess with the minds of the Europe team. He wants them to feel some relief in the feeling that Tiger will not be part of the team. Then bam! He’ll shock them on September 7th by naming Tiger to the team.
My response to Pavin is that the Europeans do not care one bit if Tiger is on the team. Team USA is 1-4 in those Ryder Cup’s that Tiger has been a part of. The team that is crucially interested in Tiger’s participation is your USA team. Those guys need to know your decision to they can remove the cloud hanging over them and really begin their preparations in earnest.
Alternatively, Pavin may in fact tell me that he has already decided to keep Tiger on the team unless he goes stone cold in the next 2-3 weeks. His logic in keeping quiet is to limit the second guessing and the questions that will come to him and his team. He would like to keep his options open.
My reply to this scenario is that Pavin should not be scared to make a decision. He is simply hoping that Woods plays poorly enough to have the majority agree with him not picking Tiger. Flipping that around, he is hoping that Woods plays so well that he has to take Tiger (again with the masses nodding their heads in agreement). A leader must do what he thinks is right, no matter what the court of public opinion may say.
|1||Phil Mickelson (7)*||6,095.063|
|2||Hunter Mahan (1)*||4,095.620|
|4||Jim Furyk (6)*||3,763.642|
|5||Steve Stricker (1)*||3,697.976|
|9||Anthony Kim (1)*||3,274.684|
|11||Zach Johnson (1)||3,051.897|
|12||Tiger Woods (5)||2,902.580|
|13||Bo Van Pelt||2,662.234|
|14||Stewart Cink (4)*||2,644.833|
|19||J.B. Holmes (1)*||2,390.710|
The above table shows the eight automatic qualifiers and the next fourteen players who likely will make up the four captain picks. Their number of Ryder Cup appearances is in parenthesis beside their name (as pulled from rydercup.com). Individuals with an * beside their names were part of the 2008 team that won in Kentucky.
As Director of Common Sense, my job is to float up above the noise that comes with being focused on the minutia. From 40,000 feet, here are the pertinent facts as they relate to this year’s team:
- Of the eight who have qualified for the team, four have prior Ryder Cup experience.
- Of the four other qualifiers, three are known to struggle to control their emotions.
- The Ryder Cup is being played in Wales, where emotions are going to be extremely high.
- Five of the non-qualifiers have Ryder Cup experience, led by Woods and Stewart Cink.
- Pavin could have as many as seven players who were part of Paul Azinger’s successful ‘pod system’ approach on his team. He could of course have more if he went further down the list to grab other players who were part of the 2008 team.
I purposely bring up Azinger’s pod system as my final bit of common sense advice to Pavin. There was a painstaking amount of time and thought that went into revitalizing the US approach to the Ryder Cup and I hope that Pavin fully intends to build on that success. While there is the obvious temptation to leave one’s own mark, this must be tempered against changing for the sake of change.
In 2008, Azinger broke up his 12 man team into three pods of four players each with an assistant captain assigned to the team. Mickelson, Mahan, Anthony Kim were grouped together as the aggressive players. Furyk led the ‘good ole southern boys’ group of Kenny Perry, Boo Weekly and JB Holmes. Stricker and Cink were joined by Chad Campbell and Ben Curtis to comprise the boring steady eddies.
Referring back to the above list, there are a variety of ways that Pavin could pod it up:Team aggression: Furyk Mahan Overton Kim Woods Fowler Steady Eddies: Stricker Kuchar Zach Johnson Cink O’Hair Glover Bombs Away: Mickelson Watson Dustin Johnson Barnes Holmes
As Director of Common Sense, my opinion on who should make up the four captain picks does not matter *. I simply hope that Pavin has his own sketched out team that is broken up logically into three pods, as was done by Azinger.
* I can’t resist. I would pick Woods and Kim, and pair them together. I’d then move Furyk down to the bombers to pair up with D Johnson. Finally, I would add Zach Johnson and Cink to the steady eddies. I’m not a huge fan of the Cink pick and could be talked into O’Hair.