Americans pull out of Ryder Cup

Woods gives support for decision to defer showdown between United States and Europe at The Belfry for 12 months
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The Independent Online

The 34th Ryder Cup, due to be played next week, will now be staged at The Belfry in September 2002 after being postponed for a year following last week's terrorist attacks in the United States. While domestic sport in America will gradually resume this week, it was felt inappropriate for such a big international event to continue while the country still grapples with the aftermath of the atrocities.

The decision was taken yesterday by the PGA of America after consulting with the US Government and the American players. The European Tour and the British PGA will today start the considerable task of re-organising the contest, which will be played by the teams announced last month and under captains Sam Torrance and Curtis Strange.

Tiger Woods, the world No 1, also welcomed the announcement. "Whatever decision the PGA of America made, I was going to support. They made the safest decision," he said. "I definitely think it's the right decision, especially with retaliation imminent. The last thing you want to do is get caught in Europe.

"I talked to Curtis today and he said the same team would play next year in September at The Belfry and the Presidents Cup goes to 2003. They've moved everything back a year. I think we need to come together as a nation, and I think we're doing that. It's unfortunate that it took a situation like this to bring people together, but at least it's happening. Our national pride is starting to come out."

Jim Awtrey, the chief executive officer of the PGA of America, said: "Given the enormity of the tragedy in America, we informed European officials of our desire to postpone the match until next year.

"The PGA of America is very appreciative of the support and understanding expressed by European Ryder Cup officials. We understand this is a hardship for them to reschedule the match next year at The Belfry, but it was important to us that the match be played and not cancelled.

"We will work with our counterparts in Europe over the next year to ensure that the 34th Ryder Cup is played in the spirit in which it is meant." Mitchell Platts, spokesman for the European Ryder Cup committee, said: "The PGA of America has informed us that the scope of last Tuesday's tragedy is so overwhelming that it would be impossible for the United States Ryder Cup team and officials to attend the match this month.

"We have been placed in a position beyond our control and therefore the match, out of necessity, has been postponed.

"The invitation for the United States team and officials to attend the 34th Ryder Cup has not been withdrawn but extended. We will now start the process of rescheduling the match for 2002.

"It has been agreed that the match will take place with the same captains and the same 10 qualified players and the two wild cards as already nominated by the captains."

The captains, Torrance and Strange, both supported the decision to postpone the match and expressed deep sympathy for the victims of Tuesday's atrocities and their families. "The decision to postpone the Ryder Cup this year is one of common sense," said Torrance.

"What happened in America last week has put the Ryder Cup and everything else into perspective. I am desperately heartbroken for all the people involved in this terrible tragedy. All I can feel at the moment is an immense sadness. There will be time enough to talk further about the 34th Ryder Cup matches taking place next year.''

Strange said: "The tragedy in America caused us all to reflect and evaluate our own lives and relationships with family and friends. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected by last Tuesday's disaster.

"With regards to this year's Ryder Cup, my concern was always centred on 'the right thing to do'. The PGA of America's decision to postpone the match is very appropriate in light of this situation. I look forward to playing the match next year."

Many of the American players had expressed concern at travelling out of their country at this time and it had been agreed that it would need to be a unanimous decision for the team to play as scheduled.

Tiger Woods, the world's best player, gave the lead by withdrawing from the Lancome Trophy in Paris this week. Woods had been due to arrive in Europe on Tuesday before linking up with his team-mates at The Belfry.

But in a simple, but powerful, statement, Woods said: "I don't believe that this is an appropriate time for competitive golf. I feel strongly that this is a time to pause, reflect and remember the victims of Tuesday's horrific attack.

"I have always felt that I must be fully committed to each and every golf competition I enter but, due to this week's events, I am not. I also fear that the security risks of travelling overseas at the present time are too great." Steve Loy, who manages Phil Mickelson and Mark Calcavecchia, said his clients were not concerned about flying to Britain but about their safety within the ropes.

"To be frank about it, a golf tournament would be an easy place to commit mass murder, no matter how tight the security," said Loy. "My players want to take part in the Ryder Cup but they have to put their families first."

Andrew Chandler, who manages Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley, added: "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."

The former Ryder Cup captain, Bernard Gallacher, said: "It is a very sensible decision. I am pleased the match has been postponed and not cancelled. I don't believe safety was the main factor, just that this was not the time for the players to come over for an international event and all the competitiveness that involves."

European Ryder Cup rookie, Pierre Fulke of Sweden, said: "Under the circumstances it's the only decision that could have been made. You have to understand the American players who did not want to travel. All the European team agreed that we wanted to go ahead, but the decision has basically been made by the US team. We don't know what's going to happen – it could be World War III or something – so I think it's a very good decision.

"From a personal point of view, if they had cancelled it, it would have been a disappointment. But it has only been postponed and so we will still be Ryder Cup players next year."

Colin Montgomerie said: "I fully support the decision taken by the authorities."

The Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, added: "In these tragic circumstances this decision is understandable. It must have been an agonising decision to make, but one I support."

The profits from this year's match were predicted at £10m, to be split between the European Tour and the PGA. Restaging the event next year will remove a substantial chunk of that but not as much as cancelling the match outright.