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Byron Nelson speaks on today's Ryder Cup issues

Byron Nelson walks with a cane, is 87 years old and hasn't played the pro tour in 52 years.

But is he out of touch?

No, you can't say that. Nelson, who played on three Ryder Cup teams and was captain in 1965, has attended every Ryder Cup match in the United States in the last 30 years. But he'll miss next week's competition at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

Nelson cut his right hand with a saw in a woodworking accident at his ranch in Roanoke, Texas, and he is being treated by a plastic surgeon.

Nelson uses his right hand to hold his walking stick, you see, so he can't get around very well.

"But I'll be there in spirit," he said.

That's good news for the U.S. players, who have grown accustomed to seeing Nelson on the first tee just before each one begins his singles match Sunday. It's sort of a ritual. One by one, they pay homage to the great man.

And Nelson pays it back to them. There is a surprising philosophical link between the past and the present, as represented by Nelson and the US players.

If the US players think they need to be paid to play for the Ryder Cup -- even if it's only to give the money to charity -- Byron Nelson doesn't have a problem with it.

The reason is that the Ryder Cup has changed, and so should the ground rules. It's no longer the simple little get-together it was in Nelson's day, when he played in 1937, 1939 and again in 1947 when the Ryder Cup resumed after World War II.

"I'm from the older school," Nelson said. "I don't understand all this money. It bugs my mind, but it's there.

"Money-wise, I think it's just a matter of everything getting worked out. I mean, the players probably realised the Ryder Cup was making more money than the Presidents Cup, and they weren't getting anything.

"It probably worked like this: Everybody is making money, my charities could benefit."

Nelson knows a lot about charities. His GTE Byron Nelson Classic has raised $5.8 million for Dallas-Fort Worth charities in 32 years.

Nelson said he expects the money issue to be no distraction to the US team or to Ben Crenshaw, the captain, who Nelson says has worked harder than any captain he can recall.

"Now, I certainly would not want any money for myself," Nelson said. "But the whole thing has changed. All of a sudden, we're making a lot of money out of the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup so you look at that and you can understand why players would be feeling they need some part of it."

The issue has been blown out of proportion, Nelson said, with "everybody quoting this, that and the other."

Clearly, times have changed, and so has the Ryder Cup, Nelson said.

"It just wasn't as big in those days," he said. "What we need to be able to do is change along with it."