One week and one day before the U.S. team was to fly to England for the Ryder Cup, the matches were called off, the first interruption of play in the event's 74-year history since World War II in 1939.
The 34th staging of the biennial match play competition between the U.S. and Europe was to be Sept. 28-30 at The Belfry at Sutton Coldfield, England, near Birmingham, but by mutual agreement of the Ryder Cup governing bodies, the event will be played in September 2002, at the same venue.
"They made the safest decision," Tiger Woods said.
The PGA of America, which sponsors the U.S. Ryder Cup effort, informed the European Ryder Cup board Sunday that Tuesday's deadly terrorist attacks made it impossible to play the matches as scheduled.
"The PGA of America is very appreciative of the support and understanding expressed by the European Ryder Cup officials," Chief Executive Officer Jim Awtrey said in a statement. "We understand this is a hardship for them to reschedule the matches ... but it was important to us that the matches be played and not canceled.'
Curtis Strange, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, said the tragedy of last week caused him and others to reflect on lives, relationships, families and friends, but not necessarily golf.
"With regards to this year's Ryder Cup matches, my concern was always centered on 'the right thing to do,"' Strange said. "The ... decision to postpone the matches is very appropriate in light of this situation."
Both the PGA of America and its counterpart in Europe agreed that the teams and captains remain the same when the matches are rescheduled. There is also speculation that future scheduling of the Ryder Cup as well as the Presidents Cup may be changed significantly.
Woods reported on his Web site that Strange told him that the 2002 Presidents Cup, a match play event between the U.S. and the rest of the world other than Europe, would be shifted to 2003 and that the 2003 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., will be pushed back to 2004.
Sources at the PGA of America, however, say such a move is only a potential scenario and that shifting the Ryder Cup from its historical place of being staged in odd-numbered years to even-numbered years has not yet been decided.
Whatever the outcome of future scheduling may be, it's clear that the postponement of the 2001 Ryder Cup was the only reasonable decision.
There was little sentiment for the matches to be played, especially by the U.S. players. That group includes, most notably, Woods.
Not only did Woods cancel his commitment to play in this week's Lancome Trophy tournament in Paris and forfeit a $2-million appearance fee, he also served notice that he believed security in Europe would be an issue if the U.S. retaliated against suspected terrorists.
"I definitely think it's the right decision, especially with retaliation imminent," Woods said. "The last thing you want to do is get caught in Europe."
Those close to Woods say he is keenly aware of his status as perhaps the highest profile athlete in the world and how he could be affected in a chaotic situation. No one can blame Woods for being cautious, although he had said he would abide by whatever decision the PGA of America made as far as playing or postponing the Ryder Cup.
At the same time, it's also clear that security is on everyone's mind. Andrew Chandler, who manages European Ryder Cup members Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood and Paul McGinley, told the Sunday Times of London that he expressed sympathy for Woods' position.
"There is no way Tiger Woods' safety can be guaranteed against people who don't care about killing themselves," Chandler said. "In the middle of a fairway, he's just too vulnerable."
It was the kind of realization that all parties could understand. And we're not even taking into account the propriety of appropriateness of staging golf's most highly nationalistic tournament in light of last week's tragedy.
As it turns out, the choice to postpone the Ryder Cup wasn't just the right decision, it was the only decision.
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Ryder Cup Facts
What: Biennial competition between the United States and European golf teams.
Scheduled: Sept. 28-30 at The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, England.
New date: Tentatively scheduled for September 2002.
In quotes: "Given the enormity of the tragedy in America, we informed European officials of our desire to postpone the matches until next year."--PGA Chief Executive Officer Jim Awtrey
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The schedule for the next six Ryder Cup matches. Note that the actual playing schedule, although probably not the venue, is subject to change as a result of the postponement of the 2001 matches:
2001: 34th Ryder Cup at the Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, England, postponed.
2002: 34th Ryder Cup rescheduled.
2003: 35th Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
2005: 36th Ryder Cup at The Kildare Hotel and Country Club, Straffan, Ireland.
2007: 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville, Ky.
2009: 38th Ryder Cup to be determined.
2011: 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Ill.
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