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US Players hit back at European war of words

U.S. Ryder Cup players defended their team on Wednesday in the wake of a barrage of criticism of the Americans from European team members, and said Europe sounded like sore losers.

"They just got pounded into the ground on Sunday and they're embarrassed by it," said Davis Love, on the eve of the Buick Classic at Callaway Gardens.

"It's too bad there's all this bickering when it was the greatest Ryder Cup ever," Love said. "It's sad that they're whining so much. I guess when you get pounded like that you have to find some reason for it."

The U.S. team made the biggest final day comeback since the Cup was first contested in 1927 to reclaim the trophy in suburban Boston on Sunday, but that achievement has been somewhat overshadowed by the war of words that has followed.

European captain Mark James, assistant Sam Torrance and several team members have slammed the U.S. players for mobbing Justin Leonard after he sank what turned out to be the winning 45-foot putt on the 17th green in Brookline.

It was a premature celebration and a serious breach of golf etiquette since Jose Maria Olazabal still had a putt of his own that could have kept the match going.

Olazabal, after waiting for the Americans to calm down, finally took a stab at his 25-foot putt but missed.

Leonard, along with U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw, apologized on Sunday for the incident. "If grudges are held there's nothing I can do about it," said Leonard.

The Europeans have also criticized the boorish behavior of some members of the gallery at The Country Club for heckling players and even, in one instance, for spitting at James's wife.

The American players said they did not condone unruly fan behavior, and Love suggested that alcohol sales be cut off early in the day to curb potentially abusive fans.

But Love added that poor fan behavior has been seen on both sides of the Atlantic.

Love recalled the Cup competition at the Belfry in 1993 and "people poking umbrellas through the fence trying to trip us," and "how long have they been calling our wives flight attendants and blonde bimbos?"

He said at Valderrama in 1997 "people were downright ugly to us.... coughing and yelling and cheering when we missed a putt."

David Duval, in a television interview on ESPN, said fan abuse was not restricted to European players.

"We were getting harassed by our own crowd," said Duval, who had downplayed the importance of the Cup before the competition, referring to it as an "exhibition."

"I was the target of a lot of stuff for some of the things I've said leading up to the event," said Duval.

"We were in a tough spot the first two days. We were getting killed and we had to stand by and watch the (European) celebrations through the course of each round.

"What's the difference? On Saturday afternoon Jesper Parnevik pitched in from about 50 yards on the 12th hole. I had to wait for a couple of minutes for him and Sergio (Garcia) to get done dancing around and screaming and yelling and hooting and hollering.

"We weren't complaining. That's part of the event, the emotion. One of the most integral parts of the Ryder Cup is it is a partisan event."

Love said he believed the Europeans practiced gamesmanship to try and throw off the Americans.

"They were playing slow on purpose. I'll bet you a million dollars their strategy was to slow play because it frustrated us," he said.

"Nobody heard Mark O'Meara complaining about (Padraig) Harrington taking 10 minutes to get off a shot at 18."

James was quoted as saying he and other Europeans may not want to return to the United States to contest the Cup.

"Fine," said Love about a competition created to foster comraderie between golfers from the opposite sides of the Atlantic.

"Then we'll just keep the Cup over here."


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