CBSSports.com Senior Writer Steve Elling chronicles a heated exchange between Golf Channel reporter Jim Gray (who conducted the controversial interview with Lebron James as he revealed his decision to exit the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat) and Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin over the status of Tiger Woods and the Ryder Cup team.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- The Ryder Cup has often been an acrimonious, spirited, emotional affair.
That's between the ropes, between the players and occasionally among the partisan fans. Unless we miss our guess, never before has a reporter threatened a team captain, though.
In a tense exchange in the middle of the PGA Championship media center on Wednesday, Golf Channel reporter Jim Gray stuck a finger in U.S. captain Corey Pavin's chest, called him a liar and barked, "you're going down."
The exchange was precipitated by a conversation between the two that took place outside the player registration area on Tuesday night. Gray reported that when when asked if he would extend a captain's pick to struggling star Tiger Woods, Pavin said, "of course I'm going to."
On Wednesday morning, when he learned of the report while practicing on the Whistling Straits course, Pavin denied making any such statement or that any player had secured a spot as a captain's pick, which are not finalized until Sept. 7.
Pavin and his European counterpart Colin Montgomerie had just concluded a scheduled Ryder press conference when Gray, approached Pavin after the room had mostly emptied.
(Credit: CBS)Gray, whose employer earlier had issued a statement that it was standing by the facts of his report, stuck a finger in Pavin's chest and berated him, according to Pavin and his wife, Lisa, who claims she recorded the exchange on her cellular telephone.
"It's all right here," she said, waving the phone.
At one point, Gray raised his hand in an apparent gesture to keep Lisa from intervening and Corey pushed it away. So in that regard, there was physical contact between the two.
Pavin insisted after the exchange that he never told Gray that Woods was assured of a spot on the team. Why would he make such a guarantee, Pavin reasoned, when Woods just finished the worst tournament of his life last week?
"It would seem counter-intuitive, wouldn't it?" Pavin said of the timing.
As Gray approached him and they jawed at each other, Pavin said he tried to hold his ground.
"I just said, 'You're full of 'something,' " Pavin said. "I'm not going to let that happen. He got upset. His eyes were a little odd ... He was just a little crazy."
Pavin's wife was extremely agitated about the exchange and ripped Gray for not broaching the issue when more reporters were in the room. She was overheard complaining to a PGA of America official that Gray was a "wuss."
Of her husband's supposed guarantee to Woods, she said, "He's not stupid. He's had media training."
Pavin, an extremely level-headed guy not prone to theatrics, seemed as upset about the supposed misquote as he was about the finger-pointing and name-calling.
"What angers me is that he used a quote that misrepresented what I said," Pavin said. "It shows disrespect to other guys who are trying to qualify for this team."
The Golf Channel later issued the following statement:
"Golf Channel stands 100 percent behind the accuracy of Jim Gray's report. As far as any subsequent conversation between Jim and Corey Pavin, it was meant to be private and should remain as such.
If you seek comment from Jim Gray, he said the following earlier today on Live From the PGA Championship on Golf Channel '... there is absolutely not one part of what Corey Pavin said to me that has been misquoted. And quite frankly, I happen to like Corey Pavin. I've known him an awfully long time, and in this instance, his is being disingenuous and is not telling the truth.' "
For more from Steve Elling, check him out on Twitter: @EllingYelling