Ryder Cup to wait a year

Posted: Monday, September 17, 2001

U.S. captain Curtis Strange had just finished telling his players the Ryder Cup had been postponed when he started looking ahead to the rescheduled event next September.

''Everybody will have their 2001 hats on,'' Strange said. ''They will still wear their 2001 clothes and their 2001 rain gear. That's important to me, that this is the 2001 team and that we don't forget why we're playing a year later.''

The Ryder Cup, the most anticipated golf event this season, was postponed for one year because of what the PGA of America called the ''enormity of the tragedy'' from terrorist attacks that left the U.S. team wary of travel and uneasy about playing.

''I fully support the decision,'' said Tiger Woods, who on Friday canceled his trip to Paris for the Lancome Trophy. ''There are far more important things to deal with in America right now than wondering whether we should be playing the Ryder Cup.''

It was the first time the biennial event was called off since 1939, when the British PGA did not send a team to Florida because of World War II in Europe. The matches did not resume until 1947.

The PGA of America told the European Ryder Cup board that ''last Tuesday's tragedy is so overwhelming that it would be impossible'' for the U.S. team and officials to take part in the matches.

European tour spokesman Mitchell Platts said the invitation has not been withdrawn but extended until next September at a date to be determined. The Ryder Cup had been set for Sept. 28-30 at The Belfry in England, and it will be played at the same location in 2002.

Nothing else will change. Strange and Sam Torrance will be the captains of the U.S. and European teams, which will include the same 10 players and four captains' selections.

''I support what they're doing,'' David Duval said from his home in Sun Valley, Idaho. ''I think players who have worked hard and earned their way on the team -- especially rookies who haven't experienced it -- and the hard work Curtis and Sam have put in ... should be rewarded.''

Torrance said the terrorist attacks ''put the Ryder Cup and everything else into perspective.''

''I am desperately heartbroken for all the people involved in this terrible tragedy,'' he said. ''All I can feel at the moment is an immense sadness.''

While no dates have been set, the Ryder Cup probably will be scheduled for Sept. 27-29 next year, one week after the World Golf Championship event in Ireland.

It wasn't immediately clear what would become of the Presidents Cup, matches between the United States and an International team made up of players born outside Europe. It was scheduled for Nov. 7-10, 2002, in South Africa.

Two sources familiar with the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the most likely option was to push everything back -- the Ryder Cup would now be played in even-numbered years, the Presidents Cup in odd-numbered years.

The Ryder Cup, which began in 1927, wasn't such a big deal when the matches were canceled from 1939-45 because of the war. Now, it is the Olympics of golf, a tournament that causes more pressure than players experience in the majors.

The United States won in 1999 with the greatest comeback in the tournament's history. Justin Leonard's 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., set off a victory celebration that offended the Europeans.

Strange and Torrance have spent the past two years laying the groundwork for matches that would be competitive but civil.

''It's disappointing, but my heart is still with the families of everybody who has suffered,'' Strange said. ''The Ryder Cup is a wonderful and huge event. At this time, you put it on the back burner.''

U.S. players were torn about whether to play, with some expressing concerns over travel and security while playing overseas.

Strange said the players did not have any input in the decision to postpone.

''This did not come down to a vote of the players, nor was it going to come down to a vote of the players,'' Strange said. ''You do what you think is best. And the PGA of America did what they thought was best.''

Jim Awtrey, chief executive officer of the PGA of America, issued a statement that said, ''Given the enormity of the tragedy in America, we informed European officials of our desire to postpone the matches until next year.''

Strange will join six of his players at the Pennsylvania Classic this week outside Pittsburgh when the PGA Tour gets back to golf. The others are Scott Hoch, Paul Azinger, Scott Verpank, Mark Calcavecchia, Jim Furyk and Stewart Cink.

Also, plans are under way for the U.S. team to gather for a ceremony Sept. 25 at the Texas Open in San Antonio.

Pierre Fulke of Sweden, one of four rookies on the European team, said most of his teammates wanted to play the Ryder Cup but understood why it was postponed.

''Under the circumstances it's the only decision that could have been made,'' he said. ''Everybody's gut feeling after Tuesday was that the Ryder Cup would be in danger and you have to understand the American players who did not want to travel.''

The U.S. team has three rookies, including David Toms, who earned his way onto the team by winning the PGA Championship.

''It's just not the right time to play,'' he said.



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