A few pro golfers don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, but no one escaped the fear and confusion in Europe last week as war clouds gathered. In Paris, where the leaves were beginning to turn crimson and gold, players at the 32nd Troph�e Lanc�me struggled with their emotions. The postponement of the Ryder Cup, scheduled to be played this week in Sutton Coldfield, England, had shaken their confidence and left them wondering if tournament golf, as they know it, can continue. No loudspeakers on trucks were announcing the imminent arrival of an occupying army, but a notice on the doors of the empty party tent at Saint-Nom-La-Bret�che Golf Club conveyed the impact of the terror attacks on the U.S. Due to les �v�nements dramatiques, the note explained, all manifestations of a festive nature were annul�es. Canceled.
To the players of the European tour, who live in a world in which the Scandinavian Masters follows the Dutch Open as surely as the 7th hole follows the 6th, the game suddenly seemed puerile, their efforts insignificant. "There's a lot less laughter," said Colin Montgomerie. "We are all quite flat, and it will take a number of weeks, months, wars to get back to where we were." During the first round last Thursday, when a blast from an air horn signaled players to stop for a minute of silence, the golfers bowed their heads and stood motionless while it rained. Sergio Garc�a, who would win the tournament, said, "It was as if the sky was crying."
The funereal mood was not confined to France. At the Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, where organizers had been putting the finishing touches on the Ryder Cup site, work crews dismantled grandstands and hauled off acres of white cloth from the tented village. Forty thousand Ryder Cup-logoed Glenmuir polo shirts sat in boxes on the floor of the monster merchandise tent, destined for storage. Behind the sprawling brick Belfry Hotel, where the flags of seven nations flew at half-mast, a gardener snipped at a hedge with clippers, getting it just so. The unspoken message: There will always be an England.
Symbols had to do for expression, because officials of the European tour, the British PGA and the Belfry refused to discuss the impact of the postponement—the first disruption of the Ryder Cup since war wiped out the matches from 1939 until '47. One publication put the financial losses at $29 million, but that was speculation.
The emotional fallout was easier to gauge. Whereas in the months leading up to the Ryder Cup the match was characterized as a confrontation between bitter transatlantic rivals, tragedy produced an Anglo-American unity not seen since U.S. servicemen billeted with British civilians during World War II. "Everybody here has been overwhelming in their sympathy and support," said Jeff Erickson, a young American working in the golf shop at the Belfry. "People who hear my accent come over and say how sorry they are."
Only the chattering class, as some Brits call the media, defied the spirit of unity. There was criticism of Tiger Woods, whose withdrawal from the Troph�e Lanc�me and reluctance to travel to Europe were blamed for forcing the PGA of America to ask for a postponement. There was criticism of European captain Sam Torrance, who had said, "I don't think canceling or postponing is giving in to terrorism. Golf is nothing, nothing." There was criticism of U.S. stars Mark Calcavecchia and Phil Mickelson, whose manager, Steve Loy, had said, "A golf course would be an easy place to commit mass murder." Wrote a columnist in The Mirror, a British tabloid: "Someone needs to explain to these people they live in the real world. Someone needs to explain that we are all at risk, not just a few cosseted individuals who can't see anything beyond the end of their egos."
Fortunately, the finger-pointing lasted only as long as it took to count heads in Paris, where the players were every bit as concerned as their American counterparts—none of whom played in the Troph�e Lanc�me—for their personal safety. "I know a lot of guys are deciding to go home," said Adam Scott, whose mates from Australia and New Zealand were cutting short their European seasons. "I'm happy to go on, but only if things don't take a turn for the worse."
Jean Van de Velde, the suave Frenchman who blew a three-stroke lead on the last hole of the '99 British Open, speculated that a wartime European tour might consist solely of tournaments to which players could drive in their cars. "If we go to war, if something happens, what kind of security will we have?" Van de Velde said. "It's going to be hard."
European tour executive director Ken Schofield and his staff, had they been willing to break their public silence, might have accused Van de Velde of understatement. The first four months of the Euro tour, 14 tournaments in all, are played outside of Europe. It features a four-event swing through Australia and Malaysia, three weeks in South America, two weeks in South Africa and two stops in Arab countries and ends with a week in Rabat, Morocco. It's no trick at all to imagine the quick cancellation of the Dubai Desert Classic, the Qatar Masters and the Moroccan Open.
That was the sort of feverish thinking that prevailed as the players gathered in Paris. The tournament's co-owners, Lanc�me, a perfume and toiletries company, and International Management Group, were in angry disagreement. Lanc�me wanted to call off the tournament. IMG insisted that it be played, pointing out that 90,000 tickets-three times normal—had been sold in anticipation of Woods's appearance and that many of the spectators had traveled across Europe and were already in Paris. "For 31 years the Lanc�me Trophy has been a big party," a statement from Lanc�me said after a compromise was reached to hold the tournament but cancel the fete. "The tents and pavilions will not be used by Lanc�me." The giant party pavilion behind the 18th green remained dark all week, and a banner on Lanc�me's private grandstand testified to a larger emptiness felt by all: LE 11 SEPTEM-BRE 2001—SOLIDARIT�.