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After Year-Long Delay, Golfers Ready to Play Ryder Cup - 2002-09-26

Elite golfers from the United States and Europe have gathered in England to play the prestigious Ryder Cup golf tournament. Normally held every two years, this Ryder Cup was delayed by one year because of the 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States. In Birmingham, England the same players that were originally selected are participating in the three-day match-play event beginning Friday.

The European and U.S. teams were finalized 13 months ago. The unprecedented delay has interrupted the momentum for several golfers as the matches have approached.

Five members of the European Team: Paul McGinley, Phillip Price, Pierre Fulke, Lee Westwood and Jesper Parnevik, did not qualify for the recent World Golf Championship in Ireland which featured 49 of the top 50 golfers in the world.

Jesper Parnevik of Sweden may prove unpredictable for European Captain Sam Torrance. The three-time Ryder Cup performer ranks 159th in putting average and 154th in putts per round. He is also a distant 131st in the PGA Tour's all-around category.

But Torrance says he will likely stay close to his original plans from last year. "This is the week we have been waiting for and we are here," he said. "I have some fixed pairings in my mind, pretty much what I had last year."

Padraig Harrington of Ireland, Thomas Bjorn of Sweden, Colin Montgomerie of Scotland, German Bernhard Langer and Darren Clarke of Ireland all finished below 20th place at the World Championship. Despite the lackluster European performances, U.S. coach Curtis Strange is expecting a close Ryder Cup.

"Within the last 196 possible points, it is split 98 points apiece," he said. "That will tell you right there how equal this has been, I think since 1985 or 1987."

The Europeans also want to avenge their bitter loss at the last Ryder Cup, in which the United States came from almost certain defeat to capture a narrow victory.