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U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Stands Ground against 'Pushy' Broadcaster
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin stood his ground against sports broadcaster Jim Gray of Golf Channel Wednesday in a heated, confrontational exchange in the PGA Championship media center at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis.
Responding to Gray and Golf Channel's claims that Pavin had decided to offer Tiger Woods a captain's pick should Woods fail to secure an automatic berth on the team as one of the top eight American players, Pavin - during his media center interview at the season's last major - denied Gray's report and alleged he was misquoted.
Immediately thereafter, Gray angrily confronted Pavin in the media center (and in front of a house full of journalists), snarled threats such as, "You're going down," and calling Pavin a liar to his face. Pavin sternly stood his ground and, after a moment's respite, the argument flared up a second time, this time involving Pavin's wife Lisa, who recorded portions of the argument on her cell phone.
All evening yesterday, the crawl at the bottom of the Golf Channel screen reported that "Golf Channel's Jim Gray reports…" that Corey Pavin told Gray that Tiger Woods would receive a captain's pick.
In response, at 9 a.m., Pavin posted on Twitter - "For the record @Golf Channel and Jim Gray has [sic] misquoted me re: picking Tiger. I never said such a thing and will not say a thing until 09/07 [the deadline for Pavin to make his captain's picks]."
At his media center interview, Pavin reprised his denial of Gray's report. "Let's straighten this out right now. I had a conversation with Jim Gray outside the locker room where we register. His interpretation of what I said was incorrect. There is nobody who is promised any picks right now, it would be disrespectful to everybody who was trying to make the team . . . there was a misinterpretation of what I said and that is an incorrect quote."
Gray then instigated the altercation, which overshadowed some of the day's news at the tournament.
According to sportswriter Ryan Ballengee of popular golf website Waggle Room, "The latest right now is that I talked with Lisa Pavin. She has a full audio recording of the incident, but she won't release it unless Jim Gray continues to act as he has toward Corey, meaning if he continues to berate Pavin as a liar in public."
Ballengee continued by adding, "I think what Gray did in the media center is unprofessional. This could have been handled with a private conversation. Gray probably didn't do anything maliciously wrong with what he reported, but perhaps it was misconstrued or taken out of context. I think Gray believes what he reported, but he wanted to rush the issue in advance of Pavin's press conference today."
Gray did start to walk away from the argument, but a comment from Pavin drew him back into a second argument. There was also physical contact between the two as they argued over Lisa Pavin's entering the argument to defend her husband and record the imbroglio.
"Gray's just stirring the pot looking for a controversy," said one venerable journalist, a lifer in sports media tents and press boxes, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He's a pushy, hyper-aggressive interviewer whose career has been defined by his unsavory flare-ups. The problem isn't that he asks hard questions, it's the way in which he does it and his timing. Look at the Pete Rose thing. Moreover, all this 'Our network's reporter reports this scoop' has got to stop. Leave that to basketball and football, golf is supposed to be above that and almost everyone in this media tent respects that ethos. Let the bloggers act like kids, we are supposed to be professionals."
For further reporting of the incident from first hand accounts, read the accounts of Hank Gola of the Daily News, Jeff Babineau of Golfweek and Mike Walker of Golf.com.
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://www.jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 220 nationally ranked public golf courses in 37 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.