Ryder Cup players talk cash in closed-door meeting

ESPN Golf Online news services

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Despite some big talk about money earlier in the day, 16 top American players and Ryder Cup officials said there is no problem following a one-hour meeting on Tuesday.

"We talked enough to know that everyone is on the same page," said Mark O'Meara, who triggered the pay-for-play issue last year when he raised questions about how much the PGA of America rakes in from the Ryder Cup.

What emerged from the meeting was a pledge from the PGA of America to look into the channeling some of its net profit to charities of the players' choice. More importantly, players and PGA officials agreed that whatever controversy had been brewing over the past several months was now behind them.

"The air was cleared," said Steve Pate. "I don't think there was much air to be cleared, not like some people think."

"We're going to be talking to the players about the charitable contributions and what we can do that lets everybody feel good about our support of the game," said Jim Awtrey, chief executive officer of the PGA. "The players right now are focused on the Ryder Cup, winning the Ryder Cup, and there is no issue between the PGA of American and players."

That wasn't always the case.

Just two hours before the meeting, Tiger Woods was resolute in his belief that players should be paid.

"I would like to see us receive whatever the amount is -- 200, 300, 400, 500,000 dollars, whatever it is -- and I think we should be able to keep the money and do whatever we see fit," Woods said. "Personally, I would donate all of it to charity. But I think it's up to the other's person's discretion what they would do with it.

"With all the money that's being made, I think that we should have a say in where it goes."

O'Meara first raised questions about Ryder Cup money a year ago, when he complained about the corporate functions required during the matches and the amount of money made from them. Woods and David Duval also joined the fray.

The September issue of Golf Digest reported that the PGA of America would pull in $63 million in gross revenue from next month's matches at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., with a net profit of $23 million.

In the same issue, Duval said that the Ryder Cup was "overcooked, but it's probably going to stay that way until players choose not to play."

"Without the players, they're not going to have a Ryder Cup," he said.

The prospect of a boycott -- Duval later said that's not what he meant -- threatened to divide a United States team that has lost five of the past seven Ryder Cup matches.

"We shouldn't get money every time we turn around," said Fred Couples, who has played on more Ryder Cup teams than any other active American.

Davis Love III earlier said whatever controversy existed had been blown out of proportion by the media.

"Keep asking questions, you're going to get a various bunch of answers," Love said. "If you let it die, it will die."

Woods appeared to back down from his earlier stance as a result of the meeting. Asked to comment after the meeting, Woods said only that "it went great. We had a wonderful time. I need to go play, boys," and then headed off to the first tee.

Duval said before the meeting that he wanted a situation similar to the Presidents Cup, in which players received $100,000 to donate to a charity of their choice.

"I understand the PGA of America does a lot of good stuff. I grew up in it," said Duval, whose father was a club pro in Jacksonville, Fla., and now plays the Senior Tour. "I think we should get money to take back to our community. And if people see a problem with that, I'm sorry."

Asked if he would not play on a Ryder Cup team if that wasn't the case, Duval declined to answer.

"That's pretty premature," he said.

The meeting at Medinah Country Club, where the PGA Championship starts Thursday, included Awtrey, the 16 players, U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

"Every single player who attended this meeting made it clear that they had no interest or desire or request to be compensated for playing in the Ryder Cup," Finchem said.

Among other things, Awtrey took the occasion to explain exactly what the PGA of America does with its profit from the Ryder Cup.

Under the Ryder Cup Outreach Program, $12.5 million is earmarked for programs designed to help the game grow, such as The First Tee, a learning center in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and education programs for PGA club professionals.

"Players understand where it's going," Awtrey said. "It's not a matter of anything the PGA is not doing correctly. They would like to be involved and have influence in some of the things we do, and we're committed to doing that."

Awtrey said details were not discussed in the meeting, and he said another meeting wasn't immediately scheduled.

"The players are satisfied that we're going to take a look at all this, and then we'll see in the next few weeks at what we can do and how soon," he said.

One by one, the players walked out of the clubhouse and none got into specifics.

"Everybody is on the same page," Tom Lehman said. "There will not be compensation to players under any circumstance. The PGA of America heard what the players had to say about having a voice. The players want what's close to their hearts to be heard as well.

"The idea of a boycott was, is and and always will be ... ridiculous."

Westwood: Money not a part of Ryder Cup experience

  David Duval believes that Ryder Cup members should receive money to take back to their community.
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