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Ryder Cup debate just won't die

David Duval and Tiger Woods respond to captain Ben Crenshaw's opposing view to the suggestion of paying team members.

The start to the year's fourth and final major championship on Thursday could not put an end to the raging Ryder Cup debate.

David Duval and Tiger Woods responded to U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Ben Crenshaw's criticism of their contention that players be paid or be allowed to allocate a portion of funds to charity from the biennial Ryder Cup matches.

Crenshaw then tempered his remarks, saying he became "too emotional" during a Wednesday news conference and simply hoped to unify the American team.

Nonetheless, the issue overshadowed the start of the tournament.

Duval was surprised to see Crenshaw speaking about it Wednesday. Duval didn't believe Crenshaw was talking about him. "But I called him and asked him and he said he was," Duval said. "Ben's entitled to his opinion, as I am. So we just disagree."

And the debate continues.

Two days after representatives from the PGA of America and the PGA Tour announced that compensation for players was a "non-issue" and that all of the players were "on the same page" after a meeting, it is clear that is not the case.

Crenshaw, who has played in four Ryder Cups and is a noted golf historian, was terse in his assessment of the situation Wednesday, saying it made him sick.

"If playing for your country is not a reward, I don't know what is," Crenshaw said. "I cherish my times in it."

He also said he was disappointed in a couple of the people in the meeting.

The two-time Masters champion was particularly upset about the characterization of the event as "an exhibition" by Duval and by Woods.

"Well, it's not an exhibition," Crenshaw said. "And another player called it an exhibition. How can they say that? One player (Duval) hasn't even played in it. It's not an exhibition."

Duval did not back down Thursday.

"Nobody in America thought it was an important event until 10 years ago," he said. "Exhibition was probably a poor choice of words, but if I had to choose between the U.S. Open and the Ryder Cup, that's not a choice."

Woods also reiterated his stance.

"I've been talking about this basically since the last Ryder Cup," Woods said. "I've said the same things. I wish we would somehow be able to allocate money to charities. At the Presidents Cup, we get $50,000 to be able to donate to charity. Well, the Presidents Cup is not on the same level, financially, as the Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup's an enormous moneymaker. Because of that, I think it is our right to be able to be given funds to help our community."

According to Golf Digest, the Ryder Cup, Sept. 24-26 at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., is expected to generate some $63-million in revenue, with the PGA of America netting $17-million. The players each receive a $5,000 stipend.

Crenshaw said lashing out was a mistake.

"I'm from a different generation and I'm trying to understand their side, too," said Crenshaw, 47. "I know one thing. We must, I don't care who it is we've got to get focused as a team. That's really what I'm after. I told them I was very frustrated. I've spent a long time thinking and worrying about this."

Two-time Ryder Cup team member Jay Haas, who played a practice round with Crenshaw, said he could see the stress building.

"Ben's been keeping everything inside," Haas said. "He doesn't appear to let things bother him, but I think it's been gnawing at him for a long time. Nothing against those guys, it's just not where I'm coming from. I just don't understand it, I guess. I've only played on two Ryder Cups, but I'd give anything to play on another one and as many as some of these guys will play on."