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Players would pay to play in Ryder Cup, says Johnson

ROME - The question of whether multi-millionaire players should be paid for appearing in the Ryder Cup popped up again in Rome this weekend, more than 20 years after U.S. officials thought they had put it to bed by introducing a charity donation policy.

A media report suggested that American Patrick Cantlay had declined to wear his team-issue cap in protest at the players not being paid. He denied it totally, saying the decision was merely because he could not find a cap that was comfortable.

Despite that, both team captains were asked about the issue, and both were firmly of the opinion that players should not be paid.

"Absolutely not," said Europe's Luke Donald. "The Ryder Cup represents true sport. It's about representing your country. It's about coming together as a team.

"It's the purest form of competition we have and I think because of that the fans love it. There's no extrinsic motivation involved. It's purely, purely sport."

His U.S. counterpart Zach Johnson said: "When it comes to the dollar sign, I don't mean to sound cliched, but the Ryder Cup is about more than any of that.

"It's about standing with a band of guys to represent your nation, to represent more than you in the game of golf. It's a sport for one week.

"I would say if there's anything that deals with money, there are guys that would pay to play in this. So I think that (report) is extremely inaccurate and arguably irresponsible."

The subject became a big talking point 24 years ago when an article in Golf Digest highlighted that the competition was earning the PGA of America $17.5 million dollars, with another $5 million going to the host club.

Some of the highest-profile players of the day, including Tiger Woods, David Duval and 2023 vice-captain Jim Furyk, said they were unhappy with the situation, sparking an initial backlash that some of the richest men in sport seemed to be asking for more.

Duval even talked about a potential boycott but the players quickly made it clear that their main objection was not that they were not getting a slice, but that they had no say in where the profits went.

As a result, a system was introduced where each U.S. player was given $200,000 to be split between nominated golf-related charities and charities of their choice, which is still the situation.

The PGA of America also diverts 20 percent of Ryder Cup media rights fees to their players’ deferred compensation plans.

On the European side, DP World Tour said some of the Ryder Cup profits were put towards developing grassroots golf projects around the continent, with input from past and present players. REUTERS