Sports continue standstill

Thursday, September 13, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- With the nation in shock and the title sponsor of its World Golf Championship decimated by the terrorist attack in New York, the PGA Tour canceled all four of its tournaments Wednesday.

It was the first time in 52 years that players were sent home without hitting a shot.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said the decision was made out of respect for the victims, and not many players disagreed with it.

"It's a good decision," Ernie Els said as he left Bellerive Country Club. "This was the worst disaster ever. We can't go play a $5 million event."

The American Express Championship, which brought together Tiger Woods and top players from every tour in the world, originally was rescheduled to begin Friday with 36 holes, followed by 18-hole rounds on Saturday and Sunday.

American Express headquaters are about four blocks away from the bottom of the World Trade Center. There have been no reports of their losses, but tour officials said it played a large part in the decision to cancel.

"We sat here in St. Louis on a beautiful day. The American Express people were feeling this thing in quite a different way than what we were," said Michael Bodney, senior vice president of international affairs for the PGA Tour.

"In trying to understand their situation from the standpoint of their loss of life and decimation that has occurred, obviously that had a huge impact on the way in which we proceeded throughout the week."

Other tournaments called off

Also canceled were the Tampa Bay Classic, the Tour event in Oregon and the Senior Tour event in North Carolina.

"I think it was the right thing," David Duval said. "I don't think the worst has happened yet -- maybe not more terror, but when they start pulling victims out of the rubble, and there are funerals taking place, some of them for police and firefighters who were trying to save lives ... and we're going to be out golfing? I don't think that's right."

The LPGA Tour said it would proceed with its 54-hole tournament in Portland. Commissioner Ty Votaw said it was following President Bush's lead "to start to get our country back to normal so the healing can begin."

If a national day of mourning is ordered, Votaw said the Safeway Classic would be reduced to a 36-hole event.

The last time a PGA Tour event was wiped off the schedule was in 1949, when heavy rains forced cancellation of the Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas.

"I don't think anyone is upset," U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen said. "The attention at the moment was somewhere else."

Ryder Cup in question

It was unclear how the cancellations would affect the Ryder Cup, to be played Sept. 28-30 at The Belfry in England. European tour officials said it is still being discussed.

The next step for the players was finding a way home.

Woods already had left the course before Finchem notified the players. Eighteen players in the 67-man field never made it to St. Louis, stranded when air traffic was shut down Tuesday morning after the attacks.

The tour considered letting the players drive their courtesy cars home.

Nick Price, Mark McNulty and Dudley Hart drove rental cars from Alabama late Tuesday, while Scott Hoch made it as far as Nashville and drove the rest of the way.

"I feel sorry for the people," said Price, who won the 1992 PGA Championship at Bellerive, the last time St. Louis saw the world's best players. "But I don't think golf was on anyone's mind. I think everyone would rather be home with their families."

Money issues uncertain

Financial matters remained unclear, from ticket refunds to money from the television contract. Goosen and Joe Durant said there was talk about donating the $5 million purse to the victims.

Hoch was finishing off a practice round when the tournament was called off. Earlier Wednesday, he said he was torn about whether it should be played.

"We would play with heavier hearts than normal," Hoch said.

For several players in the field, the American Express was their only chance to play for a $5 million purse, with $1 million going to the winner. Aaron Baddeley qualified as a top money-winner in Australia, Dean Wilson from Japan, Roger Wessels from South Africa.

"You come here with great expectations and a great opportunity," Durant said. "Maybe we get too wrapped in that. Just living should be a No. 1 priority. These are sad times for all of us."

Sunshine bathed the tree-lined course Wednesday as fans quietly headed for the exit.

Dave Stevens, who lives about 30 minutes away in St. Charles, had sweat stains on his shirt from walking around a course that was eerily silent. Fans who sat in the bleachers often waited nearly an hour for players to come through because so many spent their time on the range or in the clubhouse watching television.

"Given the circumstances, I don't think these guys could play to their abilities," Stevens said. "No one was smiling. It didn't look like they were having fun. I'm disappointed, but I know they'll be back."

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