Golf: `Honour enough reward in Cup'

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The Independent Online
WITH VICTORIES in his last two tournaments, Lee Westwood's confidence could not be higher going into the 81st USPGA Championship, which starts at Medinah tomorrow. The 26-year-old from Worksop cannot wait to get to work on a golf course that should suit his long, straight driving.

Verbally, Westwood has already taken on those American players wanting to be paid to play in the Ryder Cup and his case for maintaining the status quo was unequivocal. "If people started getting paid it would taint the Ryder Cup," he said. "I don't think it should be about money. When I started watching Nick Faldo, Seve and Woosie in the Ryder Cup in the mid-80s, the last thing on their minds was money. They were playing for the honour of representing their country and their continent. That's the way I was brought up."

Westwood had some sympathy for the Americans, who also play in the Presidents Cup against a Rest of the World team in alternate years between the match against Europe, but he noted the new World Championship event at the end of the month in which last place earns $25,000 (pounds 16,000) and is the exclusive preserve of players who qualify for those team competitions.

"That is like we are already being paid to play in the Ryder Cup," he said. "Maybe the Europeans look forward to the Ryder Cup more because we have no Presidents Cup, but we have the opportunity to play for money 51 weeks of the year.

"I understand when Bernhard Langer and Thomas Bjorn say they would like see more money from the Ryder Cups in Europe go to the continental PGAs and well as the British PGA, but I don't have a problem with people making money from the Ryder Cup as long as it goes to good causes. I'd like to see the Golf Foundation benefit and schemes for inner city golf."

The top American players were scheduled to meet their captain, Ben Crenshaw, and the chief executive of the PGA of America, Jim Awtrey, last night. While Crenshaw tried to downplay the meeting, a regular feature of USPGA week in Ryder Cup years, the issue certain to be raised included whether players will get money to donate to charity and what the PGA will do with the expected $18m (pounds 11.5m) profits from the September match in Boston.

"The PGA has to be forthcoming about what the revenues are and what it does with them," said Tom Watson. The 1993 United States captain is now an interested spectator as he awaits his debut on the Seniors tour after turning 50 next month.

Watson added: "I always had the feeling that the Ryder Cup was the Olympics of golf, where you were playing for the flag and had a team atmosphere. To be compensated would debase the reason we play the Ryder Cup. But that is a side issue. What a team needs is leadership. That comes from within, how the team plays as a team. The European team has leadership and that's what our team needs to win."

The Open champion, Paul Lawrie, will be making his debut in America, and he spent last week in Aberdeen working out and having 20-minute sessions in a sauna. "I don't usually function very well in humidity so I thought it would be a good idea to try and get a bit fitter," he said.

Lawrie has made what he describes as the "difficult decision" to miss the World Cup in November to play in the Grand Slam in Hawaii the same week. The decision may have been eased by the knowledge that the matchplay event bringing together the four major winners has prizes ranging from $400,000 (pounds 256,000) for first place to $150,000 (pounds 96,000) for last.

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