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Americans' concerns key, say the Europeans

ST. LOUIS -- When David Duval left Royal Lytham with the claret jug, he said he looked forward to being introduced as the British Open champion when he returned to England for the Ryder Cup.

Reminded of those comments Wednesday, he didn't mince words.

"Are you asking whether the Ryder Cup should go ahead?" Duval said on the practice range at Bellerive Country Club.

The American Express Championship was canceled about four hours later.

Is the Ryder Cup next?

"The decision about the Ryder Cup is not ours to make," Colin Montgomerie said. "It must be made by the PGAs, the relevant bodies, but it must be the American voice that comes out loudest and is heard."

In the hours after the terrorist attacks that led to the cancellation of PGA Tour events for the first time in 52 years, emotions were running high.

"You've got to move on," Mark Calcavecchia said. "If you don't, you're giving in."

He was reminded that only a day before, he suggested that it would be wise to forget about the Ryder Cup for at least a few months.

"If you would have asked me yesterday, I'd probably say that it wouldn't be played," Calcavecchia said. "Ask me again next Monday or Tuesday and you might get a different answer. It's a timing thing. Time heals all wounds, and maybe next week it won't seem so bad. Maybe it will.

"If they play, I'll be there. If they don't, I'll support that, as well."

The Ryder Cup is scheduled for Sept. 28-30 at The Belfry near Birmingham, a city with a heavy population of Muslims.

The Ryder Cup is run jointly by the PGA of America, which has declined to comment on the situation, and the PGA of Europe and European Tour.

"With regard to the Ryder Cup, we are continuing our discussions," European Tour spokesman Mitchell Platts said.

Until then, no one was sure what to think.

"I am not sure either team or either tour could manage to fit it into the schedules. That would be very difficult at such short notice," said Mark James, Europe's captain in 1999 and a chairman of the tour committee in Europe. "My feeling would be that if it did not go ahead this time, we would just wait until 2003 and carry on from there."

The Ryder Cup, which began in 1927 and is played every other year, was interrupted for six years during World War II. It has become one of the biggest events in golf.

Two years ago, the United States pulled off the greatest comeback in history with a 45-foot putt by Justin Leonard and a celebration that offended Europe.

Ryder Cup matches have been marked by unruly gallery behavior, to the point that poor shots by the visiting team often are cheered. Calcavecchia was once reduced to tears when he squandered a big lead. Duval showed more emotion in the 1999 matches than he did when he won his first major championship.

That, too, is likely to change.

"The prospect of the Ryder Cup is still exciting," Duval said. "Maybe some of the drama, some of the excitement and some of the importance placed upon the matches is certainly gone. Maybe some of that animosity amongst the matches would disappear now."

Montgomerie wondered about the quality of golf the Americans could produce.

"They will not be able to concentrate on golf, I am sure of that," he said.

Rumors circulated among the Europeans at Bellerive that the American team had been asked to cancel it, but none of the Americans had heard of such a thing. None knew what the future held either, especially how its country would respond to the terrorist attacks.

"I'd obviously like to play," said Phillip Price, who earned a spot on his first European Ryder Cup team. "It just depends on how it affects the U.S. team."

For Calcavecchia, it would be his first time in the Ryder Cup since 1991, the year he squandered a 4-up lead with four holes to play against Montgomerie. The United States won the cup, but the pressure affected Calcavecchia.

He is excited at the chance to play again, but wouldn't be disappointed if the matches were called off.

"I don't think that would be a bad thing," Calcavecchia said.

Scott Hoch agreed. Then again, Hoch has been saying all along that the Ryder Cup is overrated.

"I'm not that fired up about the Ryder Cup anyway, and this puts even less importance on it," Hoch said. "It wouldn't bother me if they did call it off, but other people have to make that decision, and I'll agree with whatever decision they make."

The 1939 Ryder Cup was scheduled for the Ponte Vedra Country Club, just up the coast from the TPC at Sawgrass in Florida.

The British PGA sent a message via cable that because of the outbreak of World War II in Europe, it would not be sending a team.

"When we have settled our differences and peace reigns," wrote British PGA secretary Charles Roe, "we will see that our team comes across to remove the Ryder Cup from your safekeeping."