Ryder Cup Controversy
Stars and Gripes
Phooey to god and country, unspoiled competition, goodwill and the rest of it. The Ryder Cup went strictly commercial last week when David Duval loudly complained that the players are getting stiffed by one of golf's rainmaker events, and his grousing was met with a chorus of amens and hallelujahs from teammates Lee Janzen, Mark O'Meara and Tiger Woods. "A lot of money is being generated, and players and captains are the only ones not getting paid," said Duval, who has never played in a Ryder Cup.
An inconsequential friendly when it began in 1927, the Cup has become big business. NBC paid $13 million for the television rights to the upcoming matches at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., Sept. 24-26, and the PGA of America will net a reported $23 million—a figure the PGA will neither confirm nor deny. Duval warned that players might soon skip the event if they don't begin to receive more than their current $5,000 stipend. At last week's Canon Greater Hartford Open at the TPC at River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn., Duval denied threatening to boycott, but his riffing had already polarized sentiment on both sides of the debate. Lanny Wadkins, the 1995 U.S. captain, spoke for the old school when he expressed surprise that pride wasn't enough anymore. "I think some guys who are concerned [about money] don't understand what the Ryder Cup is," he said. "Maybe if they had been paying more attention to their games the last couple of Cups, they wouldn't have lost."
Ryder Cup economics are simple. Like the NCAA men's basketball tournament, the Cup funds other, less celebrated programs. The PGA, a nonprofit organization, will allocate $12.5 million of the take next month to its Ryder Cup Outreach Program, which funds opportunities for minorities and juniors, among other causes. The PGA also runs money losers like the PGA Cup matches. As Davis Love III said last week, "There's not one player who hasn't been helped by the PGA of America."
The PGA pays the PGA Tour 20% of the Ryder Cup's TV rights fees—roughly $2.5 million—and that, too, helps the players. Those funds are allocated to purses and to player-retirement plans.
Right or wrong, Duval's defiance may spawn a bigger controversy. How much does the U.S. Open make, and how does the purse stack up to gross revenue? "You're going to continue to have problems like this," says Leonard Decof, a lawyer for the Tour Players Association. "Golf is a big business. It's getting bigger. The players are going to wake up and realize that people are profiting from their services, but in some cases it's everybody but them."
LPGA's Executive Privilege
High Office, Low Scores
Cindy McCurdy isn't being paid to be the president of the LPGA, but she is making money while on the job. Despite having to spend 15 to 20 hours a week on tour business, McCurdy is having the best season of her 11-year career. "There's no doubt that being president is a good-luck charm," says McCurdy, whose best '99 finish has been a second in the Wegmans Rochester International, worth $93,093. She's 19th on the money list, with $252,779. Before this year McCurdy's best season was in '97, when she was 34th in earnings.
McCurdy is far from the first LPGA player to reap rewards in her presidency. During her two years in office, in 1967 and '68, Kathy Whitworth won 18 times and was the leading money winner and the player of the year both seasons. In addition to winning 11 titles in '76 and '77, when she was president, Judy Rankin was the player of the year, had the lowest scoring average and topped the money list in both years. Since then, Judy Dickinson (1990-92), Elaine Crosby (1994) and Michelle Estill (1998) have also had their best years during their terms as president.
"At first I thought it was just a myth," says McCurdy, "but now I'm a believer."