THE RYDER CUP - Pavin relishing underdog role
US captain Corey Pavin readily accepts his team will be the underdogs at next month's Ryder Cup in Wales where they will be bidding to win the trophy for the first time on European soil since 1993.
Although the Americans ended a run of three successive defeats by beating Europe in Louisville, Kentucky in 2008, Pavin knows as well as anyone the daunting challenge of trying to compete on a level footing away from home.
"Given the advantage of playing over in Europe, I think that gives the edge to the European team," Pavin said. "Travelling is always difficult and the fans will be a big part of it, 80-85 percent are going to be pro-European.
"We're competing on a golf course that is played on their tour so the European players are familiar with the venue. And Monty (European captain Colin Montgomerie) gets to set up the golf course the way he wants to as well.
"We haven't won on foreign soil since 1993 so it's going to be a challenge but I think the teams themselves are very comparable. I am looking forward to a pretty good battle."
A veteran of three Ryder Cups as a player and a former major champion, Pavin believes the pressures inherent in the biennial team competition are unequalled within the sport.
"The Ryder Cup has a lot more pressure," said the 50-year-old, who won the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock after hitting a superb four-wood to five feet on the 72nd hole.
"I've hit a very important shot on the last hole of a US Open. Was I nervous? Yes, I was certainly nervous. Was I more nervous playing in a Ryder Cup, maybe coming down the 18th hole? By far. It's not even a comparison."
Renowned for his bulldog competitiveness as a player, Pavin feels one of his most important roles as U.S. captain will be to help his team cope with the Cup pressure in the best way possible during the Oct 1-3 competition.
"That's what is the most fun for me playing at the Ryder Cup, controlling my emotions and getting the most out of my game under the most trying conditions," he said.
"I hope to bring a calmness to the guys on my team. This is an event where emotions run high and I want the guys to be calm yet focused. They will be nervous, which is great.
"I just have to make sure some of the guys kind of tone it down a little bit because they are going to be so fired up."
With the Ryder Cup beginning in two weeks' time at Celtic Manor Resort, Pavin expressed relief that Tiger Woods was on his team and his pairings were close to being finalised.
World number one Woods failed to gain automatic selection for the U.S. team after a tumultuous year on and off the course highlighted by the breakup of his marriage and he had to rely on being named as one of Pavin's four wildcard picks.
"I was just waiting for him to start figuring it out and to play better," Pavin said of the 14-times major champion who has not won a tournament this year.
"I have always wanted to have him on the team but I want guys that are playing well and he's starting to play well. I am obviously glad to have him.
"He is the number one player in the world and when Tiger's on his game, he is the best."
Pavin, who was speaking at a downtown Los Angeles hotel, said trying to work out his pairings for the opening fourball matches had been one of his most interesting challenges.
"There are so many combinations and I want to try to get that right," he added. "It's probably going to be the most important thing I do as far as how it's going to affect the matches.
"I have a direction I'd like to go. Everything's not quite finalised but I am working on it, getting much closer than before. I don't have to decide that completely until the Thursday, about an hour before the opening ceremony."