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Talk Is Still Cheap When It Comes to Ryder Cup Pay Issue

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Here are the current hot buttons in professional golf: Ryder Cup. Compensation. Boycott.

But they may not be pushed any longer. At least that’s what the PGA of America and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem would like you to believe, after a one-hour meeting Tuesday afternoon that involved 16 potential U.S. Ryder Cup players, team captain Ben Crenshaw, Finchem and Jim Awtrey of the PGA.

The result was predictable. Finchem and Awtrey blamed the media for stirring up trouble and announced that the players were happy.

“They made it clear they had no intention, desire or request to be compensated to play in the Ryder Cup,” Finchem said.

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This was an interesting statement, because a few hours earlier, David Duval had said the opposite.

“I think we should get money to take back to our community,” he said. “I don’t want $5 million, but I think we should have some money to take back to benefit where we live. And if people have a problem with that, I’m sorry.”

Tiger Woods had said much the same thing Tuesday.

“I think we should be able to keep the money and do whatever we see fit,” he said. “For me, personally, I would donate all of it to charity. But I think it’s up to the other person’s discretion of what they want to do with it.”

He added, “You hear guys saying, ‘Yeah, we need to get paid.’ Yeah, I think in a sense we do, but I think what we’d see is all the players would donate the majority, if not all of it, to charity.”

What is probable is that Finchem, as the representative of the players, and Awtrey, as the chief executive officer of the PGA, are dealing in semantics. At issue may be the question of personal compensation for personal use as opposed to personal compensation for delivery to charity.

In any event, there will be no change in policy this year. Each member of the 12-player U.S. Ryder Cup team will receive the usual $5,000 stipend for expenses, even though next month’s competition is expected to generate revenue of $63 million and profit of about $17 million for the PGA.

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“They are not asking to be paid,” Finchem said. “They are asking for more dialogue.”

Davis Love III said he is weary of being asked about the Ryder Cup pay issue. He also said it’s all the media’s fault.

“Every year somebody asks a player a question and you get an answer and then you make an issue out of it,” he said.

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Duval threw out the first pitch at Monday night’s game between the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field. It was his third such performance this season. He has also thrown out first balls at the Astrodome and Shea Stadium.

No, Duval did not ask for a fee for himself or his favorite charity.

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Phil Mickelson, sporting a short haircut, said he has a feeling about what score will win this week.

“Under par, and we haven’t said that about too many majors,” he said.

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Greg Norman won his second major in 1993--his second British Open title--but he hasn’t finished in the top 10 in the PGA in five years, since tying for fourth at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., in 1994.

And Norman, who is 24 over par in the nine PGA Tour events he has played this year, has played in only three tournaments since June. He withdrew from the FedEx St. Jude Classic, missed the cut at the U.S. Open and finished sixth at the British Open.

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In any event, Norman believes he is playing at 70% of his top game.

“I’ve learned that golf is not everything,” he said.

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