Rickie Fowler pick will make Corey Pavin look good when it counts
Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin knows a thing or two about calculated risks. Three shots down entering the final round of the 1995 U.S. Open, Pavin roared back into contention on Sunday, setting himself up for the shot of his professional golf career.
With a 5-wood in his hand and nursing a one-shot lead, Pavin decided to have a go at the back pin position, foregoing the option of playing it safe and hoping for a meltdown from the players still left on the course. As expected, Pavin flushed the shot, knocking it within a couple of feet to secure his first and only major championship.
It was a shot that epitomized his gutsy nature on the course. While Tuesday’s decision to pick 21-year-old Rickie Fowler over a host of veteran players wasn’t as risky as the shot in ’95, it was still a calculated risk that had many wondering if a young rookie could handle the pressure of not only playing for his country, but playing the event in Europe — a place where crowds are less than hospitable.
“It just came down to feelings. I had a gut feeling about Rickie,” Pavin said. “He has a good Walker Cup record, 7-1. He’s a very good player. There’s a lot of very good players that I had to look at, but that’s the way I went.”
It definitely was a gutsy pick. While Fowler doesn’t have a win in his first year on tour, he most certainly will bring another dimension to the team, and that’s a brashness and youthful exuberance that could energize a U.S. team facing quite possibly one the deepest European teams in recent memory.
While you don’t win any points for being brash, it is a great quality to have when you’re playing on foreign soil. Listen to Pavin and other former first-time Ryder Cuppers talk about the first time they teed it up at the event and you’ll hear horror stories about the nerves and the difficulty they had just putting the peg in the turf.
Will Fowler have nerves when he hears his named called for the first time? Sure. But just looking at the way he carries himself, I’m fairly certain he’d embrace the challenge and the chance to prove the naysayers wrong. While he’s one of four picks Corey Pavin made, he will certainly be the most scrutinized.
While you don’t have a previous record to go off, his 7-1 record in the Walker Cup is pretty impressive. And even though the Walker Cup is nowhere close to the Ryder Cup atmosphere, past success in a match play and better ball format should give Fowler a much-needed boost of confidence.
Most could sit here all day and debate why Fowler is a bad pick for the U.S. squad; but the fact of the matter is Pavin had a gut feel and decided to go with it. Fowler is that gut decision; whether he winds up as successful as that shot in ’95 remains to be seen but given Pavin’s record in tough situations, I wouldn’t bet against him pulling off another masterstroke.