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PGA Tour Off, LPGA On; Ryder Cup Fate Uncertain

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The PGA Tour canceled all four of its tournaments scheduled for this week as a result of Tuesday’s deadly terrorist attacks in New York and on the Pentagon, but the LPGA Tour will go ahead with its scheduled event “to honor those who died.”

There are also indications that the Ryder Cup might be affected. The biennial match-play event between the United States and Europe is scheduled for Sept. 28-30 in Sutton Coldfield, England, but the U.S. players have plans to fly to Birmingham, England, in 10 days, on Sept. 23.

Mark Calcavecchia has been the most vocal proponent of delaying the Ryder Cup for a period of time, perhaps as much as several months, and there also seems to be quiet support for such a move among other U.S. players, including Tiger Woods.

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Woods, who is supposed to fly Sunday night to Paris to play in the European Tour’s Lancome Trophy next week, has told some of his close advisers that he has not made up his mind if he is going to go--a decision that could affect his play in the Ryder Cup.

The PGA of America, which runs the Ryder Cup along with its counterparts on the European Tour, held daylong meetings Wednesday at its headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., but would not reveal the nature of the discussions.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to comment,” said Jim Awtrey, the PGA of America’s chief executive officer.

The European Tour released a similar statement. “With regard to the Ryder Cup, we are continuing our discussions,” the statement said. “We would like to make it quite clear that an official statement will be made by the Ryder Cup board when these discussions have been completed.”

The LPGA Tour’s Safeway Classic in Portland, Ore., is supposed to begin Friday. The 54-hole tournament format could be altered or shortened if a national day of mourning is declared.

Commissioner Ty Votaw said in a statement the LPGA Tour has “decided to follow President George W. Bush’s admonition to start to get our country back to normal so the healing can begin. For this reason, and to honor those who died, the LPGA Tour players will compete this weekend.”

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Votaw said the LPGA Foundation will make a “significant contribution” to rescue efforts in the stricken areas and would urge players to do so as well.

Players will wear black clothing or ribbons to honor the victims and survivors of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.

Meanwhile, the men cleaned out their lockers at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, where the $5-million World Golf Championship/American Express Championship was to have begun Friday. Calling off the event was a popular decision among the players.

“I don’t think anyone is upset,” said Retief Goosen of South Africa, the U.S. Open champion. “The attention at the moment is somewhere else.”

Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour, informed the players of the cancellation of the St. Louis event in a conference call from tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

“Out of respect for the victims and their families ... and in recognition of a national day of mourning to occur later this week, [the PGA Tour has] determined that the best course of action is to refrain from playing,” Finchem said.

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Also called off were the $2.5-million Tampa Bay Classic, the $1.6-million Vantage Championship on the Senior PGA Tour and the $425,000 Buy.com Oregon Classic. None of the tournaments will be rescheduled.

Ernie Els said there was no way the tournament at Bellerive could have been played.

“It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?” he said. “It’s a good decision. This was the worst disaster ever. We can’t go play a $5-million event.”

The last time a PGA Tour event was canceled was in 1996, when the AT&T; Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was scrubbed after 36 holes because of bad weather.

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