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Ryder Cup postponed for a year

The site, players and captains will remain the same, with the date in 2002 to be determined.

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 17, 2001


There might not have been a player looking forward to the Ryder Cup more than Mark Calcavecchia, a former Florida golfer who qualified for the U.S. team for the first time in 10 years.

But the horrific events of last week soured Calcavecchia, who lives in West Palm Beach, and others concerned about playing the biennial matches next week in England. So when the Ryder Cup was postponed on Sunday, Calcavecchia was among those who believed it was the right decision.

"I was probably more excited about it than anybody," Calcavecchia said. "But the last couple of days, my excitement for it and my feeling for it had swayed another way. I was actually kind of relieved when Curtis (Strange) told me we weren't going."

Officials of the PGA of America and the European Ryder Cup board announced that the 34th Ryder Cup matches have been rescheduled for September 2002, with the date to be determined.

The matches will take place at this year's venue, the Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, England, with the same captains, Strange for the United States and Sam Torrance for Europe. The same 12-member teams that earned their way or were selected by the captains will participate next year.

Ticket and travel logistics must be worked out, according to Ryder Cup officials.

"Given the enormity of the tragedy in America, we informed European officials of our desire to postpone the matches until next year," said Jim Awtrey, chief executive officer of the PGA of America. "The PGA of America is very appreciative of the support and understanding expressed by European Ryder Cup officials. We understand this is a hardship to reschedule the matches ... but it was important to us that the matches be played and not canceled."

The Cup, which began in 1927, is played every other year but was interrupted for six years during World War II. The event had been highly anticipated, with the Americans having pulled off the biggest final-day comeback in Ryder Cup history two years ago at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., to win 141/2 to 131/2.

Next year's PGA Tour schedule is set. The American Express Championship, which was to be played last weekend in St. Louis, is scheduled for Sept. 19-22, 2002, in Ireland. With most of the world's top players in Europe, it would make sense to play the Ryder Cup Sept. 27-29.

"The decision to postpone the Ryder Cup matches this year is one of common sense," Torrance said. "What happened in America last week has put the Ryder Cup and everything else in perspective. I am desperately heartbroken for all the people involved in this terrible tragedy.

"All I can feel at the moment is immense sadness. There will be time enough to talk further about the 34th Ryder Cup matches taking place next year."

Said Strange: "My concern was always centered on 'the right thing to do.' The PGA of America's decision to postpone the matches is appropriate in light of this situation. I look forward to playing the matches next year."

The American team was scheduled to eat dinner with President Bush Sunday, then leave on a chartered jet for England on Sept. 24. American team members apparently had agreed that they would not go to England unless all 12 team members were in favor of making the trip.

It wasn't so much the flight they were concerned about, said Steve Loy, agent for Calcavecchia and Phil Mickelson, but security at the Belfry.

"To be frank about it, a golf tournament would be an easy place to commit mass murder, no matter how tight the security," Loy told London's Sunday Times.

Another agent, Andrew Chandler, who manages European stars Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley, said: "There is no way Tiger Woods' safety can be guaranteed against people who don't care about killing themselves. In the middle of a fairway he's just too vulnerable."

Woods, who withdrew from this week's European PGA Tour event in France, said on his Web site that he favored postponing the Ryder Cup:

"I definitely think it's the right decision, especially with retaliation imminent. The last thing you want to do is get caught in Europe."

Woods also said on his Web site that Strange suggested to him that with the Ryder Cup being postponed, subsequent Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup matches also would be pushed back.

Next year's Presidents Cup, which is a Ryder Cup-like competition between the United States and an International team not from Europe, is scheduled for November 2002 in South Africa. The 2003 Ryder Cup, for which a U.S. captain would have been chosen by the end of the year, with points being accumulated at the start of 2002, is scheduled for Oakland Hills in Bloomfield, Mich.

There is no official word on how the postponement of the 2001 Ryder Cup matches will affect those events.

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