Players still teeing off on Ryder Cup

When questioned, Duval says U.S. team members need to be on same page

August 13, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

MEDINAH, Ill. -- The folks from the PGA of America who run both this week's PGA Championship and next month's Ryder Cup thought that the controversy swirling around the latter would cease once the former began yesterday at Medinah Country Club. Duval Think again.

Consider what happened to David Duval after he shot a 2-under-par 70 in the opening round.

It took five questions, but Duval was asked what he thought of U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw's pointed remarks about the players who have complained about not getting more than a $5,000 stipend for playing in the biennial event. Duval, the world's No. 2-ranked player, has been quoted extensively on the subject.

"I didn't read it, I saw the broadcast of his press conference," said Duval. "Ben's entitled to his opinion, and I'm entitled to mine."

Asked if he thought he was one of the players Crenshaw was talking about, Duval said: "I didn't think he was, no. But I called him and asked him and he said he was."

The questions continued.

The issue of possible dissension was raised, and Duval admitted it could be a problem.

"Certainly we need to be unified and be excited about playing, as I am," Duval said. "The Europeans seem to gel very well. Certainly if we don't get a little tighter than -- well I shouldn't say that. I think all the players are on the same page."

If anything, Crenshaw backed down a little on his hard-line stance from Tuesday.

"I was frustrated," Crenshaw said yesterday. "My mistake. That's it. I come from a different generation. The Ryder Cup meant a lot to us. I probably got upset because players are not as excited."

Tom Lehman, who strengthened his position to earn one of the 10 automatic spots with an opening-round 70, said he is not thinking about the Ryder Cup. Lehman is currently ranked 11th on the points list.

"Most everyone who is playing is thinking about the PGA Championship and not the Ryder Cup," said Lehman, who is expected to be one of Crenshaw's wild-card picks if he doesn't qualify. "If they're thinking about the Ryder Cup, they're thinking about the wrong thing."

DeFrancesco adjusts

Woodholme Country Club teaching pro Wayne DeFrancesco had an interesting round of 6-over par yesterday. He made three birdies, and saved par from 80 feet away on another. But he also made a double bogey, a triple bogey and four bogeys.

"I played well [Wednesday] in practice," said DeFrancesco, who played with Duval in a friendly match against Mark O'Meara and John Cook. "But I let it get away from me today."

DeFrancesco admits that it's tough for a teaching pro to step from the practice tee back home onto the stage of a major championship. He did it better in the 1995 PGA at Riviera, where he opened with a 69.

"When you don't play a lot, you have a tendency to be more erratic," he said.

That didn't explain the performance of fellow club pro Bruce Zabriski. A former New York-area pro who is now working for millionaire Donald Trump at a soon-to-be opened club in West Palm Beach, Fla., shot 2-under-par 70 and was the leader in the clubhouse for an hour or so.

"Today I'm a contender," said Zabriski, who birdied four of his last five holes to finish with a 32 on the back nine. "It's so hard with so many great players. For me to win a major, that would be a pipe dream."

Elkington withdraws

Steve Elkington, whose only major championship came in the 1995 PGA Championship, withdrew yesterday after his caddie complained of chest pains prior to the round. Joe "Gypsy" Grillo was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

Grillo was reported to be in stable condition and resting comfortably after being admitted. Not only did Elkington go to the hospital, but Greg Norman also went there after finishing his round of 3-over 75.

"People don't realize it, but we spend almost as much time with our caddies as we do with our wives," Norman said.

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