Los Angeles: While Tiger Woods seems a near-certainty to make the US Ryder Cup team when captain Corey Pavin announces his four wildcard picks, the identities of the other three were open to wide debate on Monday.
The Deutsche Bank Championship, which finished earlier in the day at the TPC Boston, may have answered some of the Cup questions in Pavin`s mind while throwing several more into the melting pot.
World number one Woods effectively booked his place on the 12-man team with a storming finish to the PGA Tour event, birdies on three of the last four holes giving him a closing 68 and a tie for 11th place.
Having repeatedly said how much he wanted to play in this year`s Ryder Cup after missing the 2008 edition while recovering from knee surgery, Woods proved to Pavin his game is on the up after struggling for much of this season.
Fellow American Charley Hoffman, languishing in the U.S. points standings after last month`s PGA Championship, catapulted himself into the Ryder Cup conversation by winning the Deutsche Bank Championship by a commanding five shots.
Hoffman secured his second PGA Tour victory with a sizzling nine-under-par 62 in Monday`s final round but was one excellent week enough to convince Pavin the long-haired Californian was worthy of making his Ryder Cup debut?
Time will tell, and soon enough as Pavin will announce his four wildcard selections at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.
Of the other likely candidates, former major winners Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson finished in the top 30 at the TPC Boston while Nick Watney tied for 33rd and Rickie Fowler shared 41st place.
It was a much less successful week, though, for 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, who ended up joint 65th, and for talented twenty-somethings Anthony Kim and Sean O`Hair, who both missed the cut.
Pavin is certain to have had a fairly good idea of the four additions to round out his 12-man team before the start of the Deutsche Bank Championship but he expected a "very difficult" decision process on the eve of his announcement.
"These picks will be very important ... so the evening may very well last into the wee hours," Pavin wrote in a blog of his Monday night meeting with his assistant captains.
"One thing I know for sure: this will be a very difficult evening. I wish I could take the top 20 players to Celtic Manor with me but, unfortunately, I cannot. I can only take 12."
Renowned for his own passionate and gritty play as a PGA Tour professional, Pavin is likely to hold those same qualities in high regard when considering his four wildcard picks.
However, team chemistry and likely pairings for the foursomes and fourball matches have also been high on his agenda for the Oct. 1-3 showdown with Europe at the Celtic Manor resort in Wales.
"Chemistry is going to be a big part of it," Pavin told reporters after the PGA Championship. "Those four guys that complement the eight, that`s going to be a very key factor."
Eight players automatically qualified for the U.S. team after the PGA Championship -- Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Jeff Overton and Matt Kuchar.
Stricker and Woods, who gelled superbly at last year`s Presidents Cup at Harding Park, are likely to be paired together once again, assuming Woods makes the team.
The easy-going Cink, the 2009 British Open champion and a veteran of the last four Ryder Cups, has had several partners previously in the biennial competition, including Zach Johnson in 2006.
Should 2007 Masters winner Johnson also get the nod for Celtic Manor, those two could well feature once again as a Ryder Cup combination.
"I want to get on that team very, very bad," Johnson said at the Deutsche Bank Championship. "But you know, you can justify the case for a number of guys."
Pavin and his assistants will also have to consider the balance between steady players and aggressive birdie machines, and experience versus richly talented youth.
Woods, Johnson and Cink are viewed by many as likely wildcard picks, which leaves Watney, Fowler, Glover, Kim, O`Hair and perhaps Hoffman vying for the remaining spot.
That final call, as Pavin said, will be "very difficult."