Jack Nicklaus insists that US Ryder Cup skipper Corey Pavin “would need a brain scan” if he leaves Tiger Woods out of the side that will defend the trophy at Celtic Manor in October.
The famously dogged American captain surprised many when he suggested on Sunday that Woods, who is currently ranked 11th and outside the top eight automatic qualifiers for the side, is not guaranteed a place in his team at any cost.
“I’m not going to treat Tiger any different than any other player,” Pavin told Reuters after the final round of the Byron Nelson Championship. “He’s certainly not going to be an automatic pick. He’s just going to be treated like everyone else. I’d love to have him on the team but I want him to be playing well.”
Nicklaus was in Spanish capital yesterday to announce plans to build two new courses at La Moraleja. And while he was speaking nine miles from this week’s Madrid Masters venue, the tricky Real Sociedad Hípica Club de Campo, his comments overshadowed the build up to a €1.5m event that has attracted a stellar field that includes a host of European Ryder Cup hopefuls including Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Luke Donald and Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.
“He’d (Pavin) need a brain scan if he left Tiger out of the team,” Nicklaus told local reporters. “Of course he should pick Tiger.
“The truth is that Tiger is going through some personal problems, which I’ve nothing to say about, and he’s also got some problems with his game, which he’s going to have to resolve himself. But Tiger will be in the team, I have no doubt.”
It would be a major surprise if Woods failed to make the American team on merit and barring a spectacular loss of form, it would be an even bigger shock if Pavin denied the 14-time major winner one of his four wildcards.
Most of Europe’s biggest stars are inside the nine automatic qualifying places for Colin Montgomerie’s team but players like Garcia and McDowell know that they have work to do to avoid the need for a wildcard.
“I don’t wake up on a Monday morning and pull the rankings out and work out where I stand,” said McDowell, who is 16th in the world points list and over €400,000 outside the final qualifying place at 24th in the European Points List. “But I am very much aware that I need some big weeks.
“The Ryder Cup is not driving me on every shot that I hit but it drives my schedule. I am just trying to focus week by week and the good weeks will get in the way if I continue to do what I am doing.”
McDowell confessed that his putting has prevented him from racking up the big money he needs to earn his second Ryder Cup cap and hopes that he hits a hot streak soon.
“I really haven’t been putting like myself at all,” McDowell said. “Tee to green, my numbers are lovely. But I haven’t been doing the business on the greens lately. It’s just a confidence thing. Putting is momentum. You hole a few and away you go.”
Garcia’s putting has been horrendous over the course of a 14-month slump that has seen him slither from second in the world to 32nd this week.
And while Montgomerie would love to see the 30-year old Spaniard regain some form in the four months that remain before Pavin and Co touch down in Wales, the man himself does not feel he could accept a wildcard if he were offered one today.
“Right now there are other players who would be more of a help to the Ryder Cup team than I am,” Garcia said. “Fortunately for me and others, there are still a few months to go before team is finalised.”
As for McDowell, he believes he’s close to having a big week and clinching a win that would give leave him within striking distance of Montgomerie’s side.
The Ulsterman is joined in the Spanish capital by Paul McGinley, Shane Lowry, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Simon Thornton and Gary Murphy.
But US Open qualifier Gareth Maybin has joined Darren Clarke on the list of withdrawals. According to his management group, the Ballyclare man suffered a recurrence of an old wrist injury at Walton Heath on Monday and decided to rest rather than risk his participation in next week’s Celtic Manor Wales Open.