Captain Crenshaw lashes out at Ryder Cup team

ESPN Golf Online news services

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Ben Crenshaw lashed out Wednesday at two unnamed players on his Ryder Cup team, saying "it burns the hell out of me to listen to some of their viewpoints" about being paid to play for their country.

  No hints from Ben
  Ben Crenshaw isn't sharing any secrets on which two players he might spend his captain's picks, but he did make one thing clear.

"There are a few players on the hot seat, so to speak," he said. "They need to step up this week. All those fellows know what's at stake this week."

Tom Lehman is 11th in the standings, but likely secures a spot if he stays put. The pressure is more squarely on players like Fred Couples, Lee Janzen, John Huston and Bob Estes.

"I said early on, one choice may be fairly obvious to me, and the other might keep me up at night," Crenshaw said. "I'm looking for that player who can play Brookline."

So is European captain Mark James, and he's not about to let age or experience stand in the way. That could be good news for 19-year-old Sergio Garcia, bad news for Nick Faldo.

Garcia, who won the Irish Open, finished second at Loch Lomond and was third in the Byron Nelson Classic, is currently 12th with two tournaments left. He would become the youngest Ryder Cup player in history.

"I would never exclude any player from the side on the strength of age," James said.

And what of Faldo, who has played in more Ryder Cups (11), played more matches (43) and won more points (24) than anyone in history? He also hasn't won in two years. And Europe could have its most inexperienced teams in years.

"Obviously, experience can be helpful," James said. "But I've said all along, experience is probably overrated. I'm looking for players who will play well under pressure. Faldo certainly does come into category, so a Faldo playing well would be a huge asset to the side."

Of course, James also noted that "he hasn't been playing very well."

In an emotional outburst that added fire to a controversy the players and the PGA had tried to diffuse a day earlier, the Ryder Cup captain said the players should stop worrying about whether they are paid for the event and concentrate on proudly representing the United States.

"People are sick of issues like this in the sports world," Crenshaw said. "When you can't just show up and play for your country, I don't know. If that's not reward enough, then my heart bleeds for the game of golf."

Crenshaw declined to name the players, but David Duval certainly seemed on his mind when he referred later to one player who was complaining "and hasn't even played in it before."

Duval, Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara have all said players should get money for the Ryder Cup. Duval and Woods both referred earlier to the event as an exhibition, and Crenshaw took exception to that.

"Whether some players like it or not, there are some people who came before them that mean a hell of a lot to this game," Crenshaw said. "It burns the hell out of me to listen to some of their viewpoints."

Crenshaw, who at times had trouble keeping his anger under control, indicated a meeting Tuesday with likely Ryder Cup players and PGA officials didn't go as well as both sides had claimed a day earlier.

During the meeting, a few players reportedly pressed their demand for either payment for representing their country or charitable contributions.

"I'm personally disappointed in a couple of people in that meeting," Crenshaw said. "I mean that. They know who they are."

Woods said Tuesday that players, who now receive a $5,000 stipend, should get money and be allowed to either keep it or give it to charity.

"I would like to see us receive whatever the amount is, whether it's $200,000, $300,000, $400,000, $500,000, whatever it is, and I think we should be able to keep the money and do whatever we see fit," Woods said.

Crenshaw said players should simply be honored to represent their country, as players before them have done since the Ryder Cup began officially in 1927.

"Playing for your country, I can't imagine anything more than that," he said. "It's an honor in itself. It's a duty, a duty."

Crenshaw, a historian of the game who played in four Ryder Cups himself, brought up names of such players as Arnold Palmer, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Henry Cotton as examples of players who have represented their countries with pride and without payment.

"It's like Arnold Palmer said the other day: 'I'm just a patriotic old guy,' " Crenshaw said. "That's the side of the fence I'm on."

PGA officials and the players in Tuesday's meeting came out saying things like "everyone is on the same page" and that talks would be held on possible charitable contributions in the names of players in the Ryder Cup.

Crenshaw, though, wasn't so happy, although he said the uproar shouldn't affect the team in the Sept. 24-26 matches at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

"Everybody will be on the same page," Crenshaw said. "But I just want the future players to look at the Ryder Cup how it has been for so many years."

In the end, Crenshaw said, it's the tradition and history of the competition that means so much and should take precedence.

"Every fine player worth their salt has given their heart and soul to the Ryder Cup," he said.

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