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Ryder Cup Week Begins With a Smile and a Shake

SUTTON COLDFIELD, England -- Around 3:20 PM, Sam Torrance and Curtis Strange entered the media centers interview area and shook hands.
Finally, finally, huh? Strange said with a relieved laugh.
Indeed, answered Torrance.
While the 34th Ryder Cup matches wont officially begin until Friday morning, the two captains set the weeks tone with their friendly banter Monday afternoon.
Strange arrived with most of his U.S. team an hour prior to the press conference; guards armed with automatic weapons waited for their presence. Ten of the 12 men representing the defending champions made their ways from Kilkenny, Ireland, site of last weeks World Golf Championships-American Express Championship, to Sutton Coldfield, England, home to this years Cup venue, The Belfry.
Strange said Hal Sutton and Stewart Cink, both of whom played in the PGA Tours Tampa Bay Classic after not qualifying for the American Express, were due to arrive later in the day.
Some of Torrances European team arrived on the same flight as their American counterparts. Seven of the teams members played in the AmEx. Even Colin Montgomerie made the trip after complaining for weeks that his back might prevent him from attending.
I knew two weeks ago he was going to be here fit, but he was just stringing you boys along. It gave you something to write about, Torrance said.
Captains selection Jesper Parnevik arrived a day early. The Swede was the only playing member on either side to stay at The Belfry (team members from both sides will stay on site all week) Sunday night when a 4.8 earthquake ' the largest in 10 years in Britain ' rattled the area.
Jesper got a fright. He ran out on the balcony, starkers (naked), I believe, Torrance said. We didnt know what it was, whether it was something explosive.
Parnevik was understandably shaken; he was in New York City during last years terrorist attacks.
Of course, the events of September 11, 2001, are the reasons why this Ryder Cup was postponed a year. Three years removed from the last competition, the captains expressed an anxious desire to get it going once again.
The buildup has been great, said Torrance, but this has been the week weve all been waiting for, and were here.
Since, and even before the postponement, several issues have enveloped these Matches.
Strange and Torrance said Monday they were 100 percent sure there would be no over-enthusiastic incident such as the one on the 17th green Sunday at Brookline in 1999. They also continued to support their present team ' regardless of current form.
But there were a few new topics of conversation.
Torrance, a man whose golfing core is molded in the Ryder Cup, was asked what he thought about the comments Tiger Woods made last week in Ireland, when the worlds No. 1 said he could give you one million reasons ' as in the first-place prize money ' as to why he would rather win the American Express than the Ryder Cup.
I think we would probably chip in and pay a million to win this week, Torrance said of his team.
Torrance, however, did note that the credit card company sponsored Woods and it would have been horrific to say hed rather win the Ryder Cup than the American Express.
Strange said he also understood Tigers statement and that, I think we both know when Tiger Woods plays, hes ready to play, so hes the least of my concern.
Naturally, Woods has been a primary target in the press. Aside from his declaration that money trumped the matches, he was quoted as saying this weeks regimented schedule would be a hindrance to his normal routine.
Again, Strange is not worried.
Its been handled. Hes a team player. We had dinner Sunday night and we discussed some of those things, Strange said. When you come here youre going to be a part of a team.
Strange is quite pleased with his team heading into the week. Woods won in Ireland, and many of the others put together some positive ' if only slightly ' results, including Sutton and Cink, who both tied for 41st in Florida.
Strange added that, while impressed with most everyones play, he was not about to let the events in Ireland and Tampa change his plans for this week.
Last week everybody played pretty well. Im happy, Strange said. I didnt see anything that would change my mind or what I basically have written down.
Practice rounds will begin Tuesday. Neither Strange nor Torrance would disclose who might be paired with whom. Torrance said he was in the middle of working out his pairing sheet when he remembered he had a press conference to attend.
Two weeks ago, Strange said he planned to play everybody at least once before the Sunday singles ' believing it was the proper thing to do. Torrance, however, has no such intentions.
I think it would help on Sunday if everybody has played, but if somebody isnt playing well, Im not giving points away so they can have a free game.
Full coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup