Hectic year awaits Ryder captain Pavin
By Bill Kwon
What a week of golf!
Nicklaus winning on Maui and Palmer at Waialae. OK, maybe not Arnie, but 2010 Sony Open in Hawai'i champion Ryan Palmer appreciates people asking if he's related. So much so that he hates to break their hearts telling them no.
Sunday started off disappointingly for the gracious Texan, who watched his favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys, get crushed by the Minnesota Vikings before his late tee time. But the day ended with Palmer birdieing the final hole to win by one stroke over Robert Allenby and the rest of the best field ever to play in the PGA Tour event at the Waialae Country Club.
The strength of the field — which included the four different reigning major champions for the first time, and Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Davis Love III, who came here despite not qualifying for the winners-only SBS Championship — boosted the world-ranking point values for the high finishers because of the higher quality of this year's Sony Open. Also in the field were the previous four Sony winners, including defending champion Zach Johnson.
All of that, along with six local boys starting out, made it easy to overlook a familiar Waialae face, one who'll be prominently featured on television throughout the year: Corey Pavin, the 2010 American Ryder Cup team captain.
Pavin has the task of following the success of previous U.S. captain, Paul Azinger, who halted the European dominance at Valhalla two years ago. Pavin has to do it away from home — in Wales, Oct. 1 to 3.
By the way, what is it about Waialae and Ryder Cup captains? It seems more than a coincidence that Pavin and Azinger, who are among four golfers who have played more times in the Sony/Hawaiian Open than any other visiting pros, got back-to-back calls to lead the Americans in the biennial event. They're the fifth and sixth past Waialae winners who've captained the U.S. team, joining Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Lanny Wadkins and Ben Crenshaw.
Pavin won back-to-back United Air Lines Hawaiian Open titles in 1986 and '87 and just played Waialae for the 25th time, missing only twice since first coming here in 1984. He took 1996 off after he won the U.S. Open, the biggest of his 15 PGA career victories, at Shinnecock the previous summer. He has played in 11 of the 12 Sony Opens, finally making his first cut in five years last week, shooting a 1-under 279 to tie for 52nd.
"I love coming here," said Pavin, adding that the people here think his wife, Lisa, "is from here because she looks local." They're at Hualālai with their 2-year-old daughter, Alexis, for the Mitsubishi Electric Championship starting tomorrow on the Big Island, where Pavin is making his Champions Tour debut along with Fred Couples on sponsor's exemptions.
"I'm looking forward to it, just being at the Four Seasons. I heard it's a fantastic place to hang out," Pavin said. "That will be fun in itself, but yeah, I'm excited about playing in my first Champions event. Probably could be their best event (of the year) as well with where we stay and everything."
Pavin plans to play on both the senior and regular tours.
"It will be a busy year for sure. There's still some things to do, but my wife is taking care of a lot of the leg work. I have things to do, obviously. A lot of time with the press, maybe couple of visits here and there to places, couple trips out on tour where I would normally make," said Pavin, who will play PGA events at Riviera, Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach.
To do some scouting for the Ryder Cup?
"Not scouting so much of players, but scouting in the sense of talking to the players, getting some feedback from them and meeting players I haven't had a chance to know well," said Pavin. He will name his four captain's picks on Sept 7, a day after the Deutsche Bank Championship.
As for Tiger Woods, Pavin said there's not much to think about right now until Woods resolves his personal problems.
"It's just a matter of when and if he comes back," Pavin said.
As for Tiger being a possible captain's pick, Pavin said it depends on how he plays.
"I'm not going to treat Tiger any differently than any other player. So, I mean, if he is playing well and just misses the team, comes back later and just misses, then, obviously, it's a pretty obvious pick. But if he's playing poorly or doesn't play at all or comes back real late, I'd have to think about it."
Bill Kwon can be reached at email@example.com.