Golf: Woods and Duval answer critics

USPGA Championship: America's finest refuse to be drawn into Ryder Cup slanging match as they start final major in style
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TIGER WOODS and David Duval, two players criticised in a blistering attack on Wednesday by the United States Ryder Cup captain, Ben Crenshaw, scored two-under-par rounds of 70 on the opening day of the 81st USPGA. The pair were two behind the early clubhouse leaders, Jay Haas, JP Hayes and the Canadian left-hander Mike Weir.

If it was a calculated risk by Crenshaw to humiliate some of his leading players publicly, it may have worked. But it is more likely that Crenshaw was just so angry that he could not contain himself any longer despite the obvious effect of destroying his own team's unity.

It certainly put the lie to the words of the PGA of America's Jim Awtrey and US Tour commissioner, Tim Finchem, following Tuesday's team meeting that there was "no issue with the players" and that everyone was "on the same page".

Crenshaw, the twice US Masters champion, is known as "Gentle Ben" and has a reputation for crying at the opening of shopping centres. But he is a fierce traditionalist and anyone who thought he was too soft to be an effective Ryder Cup captain got a shock on reading the current issue of Golf Digest, in which Crenshaw is described as a "perfect gentleman" who "is the nicest cold-blooded killer out there".

"If you can't show up and play for your country, and that is not reward enough, that's when my heart bleeds for the game of golf," Crenshaw said. "It's sick. People are tired of hearing this stuff."

As well as the payment issue, Crenshaw was shocked at the use of the word "exhibition" in connection with the Ryder Cup, something Woods, who played at Valderrama two years ago, and Duval, who has never played in the match, have done recently. "Players have called it an exhibition. How can they do that? One player hasn't even played in it. It is not an exhibition."

Yesterday Crenshaw admitted: "I was frustrated and maybe it was a mistake but my philosophy bubbled over. I am from a different generation and the Ryder Cup means a lot to a lot of us who have been there."

But Woods, who birdied the last two holes at Medinah, stood by his previous comments. "I'm not trying to demean it but the Ryder Cup is an exhibition," he said. "It is an enormous money-maker and I feel it is our right to give some of that money back to our communities as charity. Ben is concerned that we are not going to be focused at Brookline to get the Cup back but we will be."

However, Woods will miss a team get-together in Boston in a fortnight because of a prior commitment. Duval called Crenshaw after seeing his press conference on television. "Ben's entitled to his opinion. We just disagree," Duval said. "People can be reluctant to change but I don't want to get into a shouting match with anyone. We need to be unified and excited about playing at Brookline, which I, for one, am."

Nick Faldo has left it late, but yesterday the six-times major champion finally presented the first flickerings of a reason why the European captain, Mark James, should pick the 42-year-old as a wild card. Faldo opened with a one-under 71, his best start in the majors this season.

Almost a year after splitting from his long-term coach, David Leadbetter, Faldo has plummeted to 193rd in the world rankings and missed the cut in the three majors so far this year.

Yet Faldo immediately felt comfortable back on the course where he almost got into a play-off for the US Open in 1990, when his putt at the last came up just a roll short of helping him to join Hale Irwin, the winner, and Mike Donald during the season when he won the Masters and the Open.

But heavy rain made conditions difficult for the early starters and the course played all of its 7,401 yards. Still, Faldo rolled in a 12-footer on the first and though he dropped a shot at the par-five seventh he birdied the next two. At the eighth he chipped in and then he holed a monster from 70 feet at the ninth.

Faldo bogeyed the 12th, but after a poor drive at the last, which ended in a bunker, his recovery hit a tree and came down 60 yards short of the green. But he bravely pitched to eight feet and holed the putt. "That helped the day," Faldo said. "Mark has not said a dicky bird about the Ryder Cup so I am just trying to play as well as I can. It's been frustrating always finding a reason to mess up. It would be nice to have 72 solid holes."

Robert Karlsson, ninth in the Ryder Cup standings, opened well with a 70 while Darren Clarke and Andrew Coltart had 72s, Ian Woosnam a 73 and Jean Van de Velde a 74.

Having not led at any stage at Carnoustie until he ended up in the play- off with the Frenchman and Justin Leonard, the Open champion Paul Lawrie amazingly tied for the lead with his fourth birdie in a row at the fifth before dropping a shot at the next.

Van de Velde's recipe for happiness, page 20

Durable Dibnah, page 25

EARLY FIRST-ROUND SCORES

(Par 72; US unless stated)

68

J Haas, M Weir (Can), JP Hayes

69

B Watts, J Kelly, S Cink

70

D Duval, B Zabriski, R Karlsson (Swe), T Lehman, N Price (Zim), T Woods, M Brooks

71

M Calcavecchia, J Furyk, N Faldo (GB), D Love, S Struver (Ger)

72

M Reid, G Hjertstedt (Swe), A Coltart (GB), H Sutton, B Faxon, J Sluman, D Clarke (GB)

73

S Keppler, F Lickliter, J L Lewis, B Tway, I Woosnam (GB), J Sindelar, K Sutherland, F Couples, S Flesch, P Goydos, J Maggert, J Freeman, A Cabrera (Arg)

74

K Sutherland, T Herron, T Armour, G Day, V Singh (Fiji), G Craft, J Van de Velde (Fr), J Cook

75

D Kestner, G Norman (Aus), T Watson

76

R Allenby (Aus), J Carter, P-U Johansson (Swe), D Toms, G Bryan, S Leaney (Aus)

77

J Sandelin (Swe), S Gump, D Paulson, B Crenshaw, P Sjoland (Swe)

78

W DeFrancisco, K Thompson, T Thelen, T Tolles, JK Lankford

79

L Nelson, B Upper

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