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Bad weather could cut into practice time

Although all of the Ryder Cup players were able to get their practice rounds in today, they might not be so lucky on Wednesday.

The National Weather Service forecast called for cloudy and cold, with a drizzle and a chance of more sustained rain. Temperatures were expected to peak in the 60s.

The rain was expected to pass by Thursday.

"Hopefully, the rain will come this evening," U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw said today. "I think that has maybe accelerated some people's wanting to get out to the course."

The Boston Herald reported last week that the Ryder Cup would have been held last weekend except that NBC wanted to broadcast a college football game between Notre Dame and Michigan State.

That turned out to be a stroke of luck for the golfers, because Hurricane Floyd drenched the area from Thursday night into Friday, which would have been the tournament's opening day. The course took on 8 inches of rain.

"That was the only thing that (course superintendent) Bill Spence feared," Crenshaw said. "We're right into the (hurricane) season here. We've been very, very lucky."

DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY: Tiger Woods, who has a 1-3-1 record after playing in his first Ryder Cup at Valderrama in 1997, said a player doesn't need to win in the pressure-packed event to be considered great.

"The greatest player of all time, Jack Nicklaus, had a losing record in the Ryder Cup," Woods said. "I don't think that's going to say that he's been a bad player. ... It's obvious that Jack has gone on to do some pretty good things in the game of golf."

Well, he's half right.

Nicklaus actually went 17-8-3 in six Ryder Cups -- one of the best winning percentages among Americans who have played in more than five Cups. Only Billy Casper, Arnold Palmer and Lanny Wadkins have won more matches than Nicklaus. Maybe Woods was thinking of Nicklaus's Ryder Cup singles record which, while not a losing one, was only 4-4-2.

BUDDY, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME? Ryder Cup captains have been known to mix up their practice round pairings to keep people -- and especially the opponent -- guessing about what the matchups might be when the tournament begins.

But maybe U.S. Captain Ben Crenshaw was showing his sense of humour when he sent Woods, David Duval, Phil Mickelson and Mark O'Meara off the first tee this morning.

What do the four have in common? They're the ones who complained earlier this summer about the lack of payment for Ryder Cup play. Although the PGA of America will take in an estimated $63 million from the event, players get a $5,000 stipend.

Wood said he would give his share to charity. But he said it should be up to the player to decide what to do with the money.

At the time, the captain nicknamed "Gentle Ben" spoke sternly about the need for his team to take pride in playing for their country. Crenshaw and the players have since put the matter behind them, saying it will be taken care of at the end of the year.

RANK RANKINGS: With nine of the top 14 golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking, the U.S. team is heavily favoured over a European squad that has only two of the top 14.

But Jeff Maggert says they may even be better than that.

"Let's face it, we've got the 12 best players in the world and if they just go out and play golf and hit golf shots, it's hard to mess up putting two guys together," he said when asked about the pairings for Friday and Saturday.

That's the kind of bulletin board comment that tends to anger opponents. But European captain Mark James wouldn't take the bait.

"I've always said the world rankings are wrong," James said. " I'm glad Jeff agrees with me."

PRICELESS MOMENT: Reported scalpers' price for 1999 Ryder Cup tickets: $5,000.

Watching Bernhard Langer and Hale Irwin duel to the final hole of the 1991 event at Kiawah Island, S.C.: Priceless.

That's the opinion of a credit card company's poll of golf reporters on the top moments in Ryder Cup history.

With the Cup on the line, Irwin hit his approach to the final green wide, chipped onto the green and put his first putt within a foot. After conceding Irwin's bogey, the German put a 45-footer 6 feet past the hole and missed the comebacker for par, halving the match and returning the Ryder Cup to the U.S. (14 1/2-13 1/2) for the first time since 1985.

No. 2 on the list was Jack Nicklaus conceding Tony Jacklin's 2-foot putt at the 18th hole at Royal Birkdale in 1969. Third was Sam Torrance's 18-foot birdie at the Belfry in 1985 that gave Europe its first Cup since 1957.

DIVOTS: David Duval is back to wearing a goatee for the first time this year. ... Tiger Woods said he talked to his friend Michael Jordan on Monday night. ... Mark James said one concern is pairing together players who speak the same language. There are three European players apiece from Scotland and Spain, two from Sweden and one each from France, England, Northern Ireland, and Ireland. Most players speak fluent English.