Westwood: Money not a part of Ryder Cup experience


MEDINAH, Ill. -- Lee Westwood, one of Europe's rising golf stars, cannot quite understand the controversy swirling in America over the Ryder Cup and money.

Westwood, who is here for this week's PGA Championship, said he is delighted to participate in the Ryder Cup merely for the honor of representing his country and continent.

"I think we play for money 51 weeks a year, or we could. So I think one week every two years playing for pride and honor and representing your country is not too much to ask," said Westwood, a 26-year-old Briton, while preparing for the PGA Championship.

"I think if people start getting paid for it, it would just taint it a little."

He spoke as prospective members of the U.S. team that will contend for the cup in September were planning to meet with the PGA of America to discuss what will be done with the millions of dollars the contest will generate.

While not demanding to actually be paid for playing in the biennial matches, several American players -- including David Duval, Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara -- have been outspoken in their desire to have a say in where the money goes. They would like some of the funds to be donated to charity in their names.

Westwood, a member of the victorious European Ryder Cup team in 1997, cannot understand that.

"I grew up watching Nick Faldo playing in it (Ryder Cup) -- Seve (Ballesteros), Woosie (Ian Woosnam) and people like that," Westwood said, referring to the stars of numerous European Ryder Cup teams.

"The last thing on their minds looked to be money," Westwood added. "You know they were there for the honor of representing their country and the continent -- and that's the way I was brought up that the Ryder Cup should be played."

Westwood, fresh from two consecutive victories on the European Tour, is one of the players already assured of being on the European side that will face the Americans Sept. 24-26 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

"I just don't think money should come into it at all," he said.

However, Westwood, who has already won about $880,000 on the European Tour, did seem to endorse the idea of having a more democratic system for sharing the wealth from the Ryder Cup matches, which generate millions for their organizers on both sides of the Atlantic.

"I can see people like Bernhard Langer and Seve and Thomas Bjorn's point -- when it is in Europe most of the money goes to the British PGA and probably doesn't go to the Danish PGA or the German Golf Federation and things like that," he said.

"I would like to see that change because they have put an awful lot into the Ryder Cup over the last decade. Those golf federations deserve some support."

Paul Lawrie of Scotland, whose victory in the British Open last month put him on the European Ryder Cup team, declined to be drawn into the debate over cup money.

"I don't really have an opinion. It's not my decision to make," Lawrie told reporters.

"I'm looking forward to playing in it," was all he was willing to say about the Ryder Cup.

Sergio Garcia, Spain's teenage sensation, seemed to agree with Westwood, at least for now.

"The Ryder Cup is like a big present, a big trophy, after two good years of playing," he said after a practice round at Medinah Country Club, where he hopes a good showing will catapult him onto the European team.

Garcia, who turned professional this year after a brilliant amateur and junior career, made no secret of his desire to make the team. And money has nothing to do with it.

"It's just like being almost in heaven, playing against the Americans," he said. "Maybe after four or five years I will think differently, but right now I just play for the love of my country."

Ryder Cup players talk cash in closed-door meeting

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