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The Inside Track | Q & A WITH BEN CRENSHAW

There Was Little Gentle About '99 Ryder Cup

September 27, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There were dueling books detailing, in part, the controversial finish of the 1999 Ryder Cup at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

In "Into the Bear Pit," Europe captain Mark James charged that Payne Stewart gave advice to a teammate, that a couple of marshals purposely sent Andrew Coltart, who was searching for his errant golf ball, in the wrong direction and high-fived one another after he exceeded the time limit, and, finally, that the Americans incited the home crowd by design.

U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw fired back in his 2001 book, "A Feel for the Game," disputing those allegations and adding that the Europeans "used the tactic of slow play to the fullest extent." He also retold his last conversation with Stewart about the "coaching." (Stewart died in October 1999.)

Wrote Crenshaw: "I found Payne and asked him if he had ever coached anybody or offered advice to one of our players. He said it was preposterous; he wouldn't do that.

"Then he said, 'Wait a minute, I did say something to Justin [Leonard] one time. I said, 'Get your head our of your ... ,' so if that constitutes advice, I guess I'm guilty.' That was my last conversation with Payne and it ended with a big laugh."

In doing the book, Crenshaw said he wanted to get a few things off his chest about the Ryder Cup experience and then was ready to move on. Doing so, however, is a little more difficult, especially with the year delay of the matches because of the terrorist attacks of last September.

Crenshaw, who is in his first season on the Senior PGA Tour, was on a conference call earlier this week to promote the Napa Valley Championship, which begins Oct. 7. With the Ryder Cup starting today in England, the majority of the questions that came his way, naturally, dealt with the exhausting, emotional and electric experience of 1999.

Question: Tiger Woods made some remarks last week about a million reasons why winning that tournament was more important than the Ryder Cup. Having been with him at the '99 Ryder Cup, what do you think about his remarks?

Answer: "I just watched the press conference a little while ago in which he said his remarks were made in jest to a few writers. It raised my eyebrows when I read about it.

"It sounded a little different than the Tiger we know and he tried to explain himself a little better this morning. He explained his emotions during the Ryder Cup week, and it didn't sound anything at all like he said that winning the tournament would be more important than the Ryder Cup. It didn't sound anything at all like that. Something got lost in the translation somewhere."

Q: With Ryder Cup coming up, does this bring back memories of 1999?

A: "Oh, it does. It brings back so many fond memories.... [Brookline] was a very historic site, a very poignant site personally for me because I got interested in golf architecture and golf history all in the same week when I played as a junior there as a 16-year-old. It was a coming together of all those emotions....

"I could see on Friday and Saturday that I thought we were on the brink of playing very well. I did think we were going to do very well in the singles, as we had to. And I must confess, if we didn't start out that last day as well as we did, the matches were over.

"I had never seen so much inspirational play from so many people. I think the American golf public got a chance to see raw emotion coming out from the players and what it meant to them at that time in their golf lives. And to have it all come together was astounding.

"It came down to this: We just couldn't lose at Boston. There was a lot to play for. It had been built up for months. The pressure was sky high. The players wanted to prove themselves. Both sides did.

"The Europeans played brilliantly the first two days, as they often do. I don't think it will be any different this week. I think Curtis Strange has to expect that this week. It will be close and get down to the singles again."

Q: Do you wish you were there?

A: "I guess I do. I will be there in spirit. It's something that never leaves you as a golfer. To have been a participant four different times in four different atmospheres, the Ryder Cup is special. It is a chance to come together as a team.

"And you play in a different arena. It's match play; it's you against them. You're representing your country and all that you play professional golf for.

"It's a culmination of all those things. It's a lot of self-induced pressure."

Q: Do you think there will be as much emotion this year in light of the event having been postponed because of Sept. 11 or do you think it won't be quite as intense?

A: "I do not think it will be as intense. We, as players, went through the last day in Boston and it was an electric day from start to finish. And when Justin Leonard made that putt across the green, it was [incredible]--no one on the planet thought he was going to make that putt.

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