MEDINAH, Ill. — For Thursday's opening round of the PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club, the rain came and went, the sun came and went, the humidity came and went and the Ryder Cup controversy . . . well, it's still here. In fact, it doesn't seem to be going anywhere any time soon.
Here's the timeline so far:
* Players say they want to be paid, hint that they might not show up in the future if they don't get what they want.
* Players meet with PGA, PGA Tour officials and U.S. team captain. They all say everything's fine, the players actually want no compensation, that the media are to blame for misrepresenting the issue.
* U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw goes off on "a few" of his players without naming them, then decides to name them--David Duval, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Mark O'Meara.
* Players say they want to get paid.
That about sums it up, probably, with one exception, a statement of feeling by Tom Lehman.
Said Lehman, in essence, I'm so sick of it, I could just barf.
Said Lehman, in actuality, "I think we should all be ashamed. The last thing the tour needs is a bunch of greedy, wimpy, whiny brats."
Finally, somebody who gets it. This is one sorry mess, all right, a bona fide public relations disaster for everyone involved. The PGA is getting shortchanged, the players look like greedy mercenaries, the PGA Tour looks helpless, the media look uncomfortable in the middle and the U.S. captain looks like a guy wondering why the sky happened to fall during his watch.
Crenshaw wasn't pleased with comments from Duval and Woods that the Ryder Cup is just a glorified exhibition, and told them so. That was before the Tuesday meeting, which was publicly sold as some sort of unification, but can only be seen now as an obvious attempt to cover up and mislead.
Here's what Woods had to say Thursday:
"The Ryder Cup is an enormous moneymaker and because of that, I think that is our right to be able to be given funds to help our community. . . . And, unfortunately, I can't do that. And it is an exhibition."
That sounded to many that Woods and at least several others want to get some compensation--if only to give it to charity--and that the Ryder Cup is indeed an exhibition.
And Woods did not back off that opinion of the Ryder Cup as an exhibition when pressed about it moments later.
After Crenshaw had criticized the players obliquely, Duval telephoned Crenshaw to see if Crenshaw had been talking about him.
"He said he was," Duval said.
But Duval said he didn't react negatively.
"Ben's entitled to his opinion, as I am. So, we just disagree."
In the meantime, while Crenshaw frets that the public is growing weary of the debate, the outlook is for the controversy to get worse.
What can be done about it? In the first place, how about telling the truth? Jim Awtrey, representing the PGA, and Tim Finchem, representing the PGA Tour, and the players sitting side by side, saying everybody was on the same page, that there were no issues, was absolute baloney. At this point, the credibility of all involved is near zero.
In fact, in a 21-minute interview session, Awtrey used the words "no issue" or "nonissue" six times. One day later, Crenshaw was jamming his finger into a table in anger. Apparently, he had an issue.
Lehman characterized Crenshaw's emotional outburst as "a slap on the wrist" and said it might serve as a wake-up call to the players. Everybody involved in this mess ought to be awake by now.
Clearly, the Ryder Cup compensation problem and its status as either a major event or just a dressed-up exhibition needs to be cleared up so everybody can be satisfied. The only issue should be when. Right now would be good.
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News item: There will be 28 1/2 hours of the PGA on television.
Reaction: From David Feherty of CBS: "Someone who watches all that needs a divorce."
Steve Elkington withdrew Thursday after his caddie, "Gypsy" Joe Grillo, became ill. Elkington said Grillo had complained of chest pains and was taken by ambulance just before noon to nearby GlenOaks Hospital in Glendale Heights.
Elkington, the 1995 PGA champion and one of the favorites at Medinah, remained at the hospital with Grillo for several hours. Grillo was listed in stable condition.
For what it's worth, 92 of the top 100 players in the Official World Ranking are entered at Medinah.
Also for what it's worth, Scottish-born Tommy Armour is the last European-born PGA champion. He beat Gene Sarazen, 1-up, in 1930, although by then he was a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Club pro Bruce Zabriski, who opened with a two-under 70, on when a club pro could contend at the PGA: "Today."
REALLY, IT WAS
Nick Price, on what role the rain played: "It was wet."
Dave Pelz, the short-game guru, says the way Medinah is set up, the player who is best at getting it up and down has the best shot at winding up on top.
"It's a very long course, so a lot of people are going to miss the greens," Pelz said.