Watts Claims His U.S. Citizenship Should Be Enough for Ryder Berth

Article excerpt

Brian Watts wants everyone to call the PGA of America for an explanation why he is ineligible to represent the United States in the Ryder Cup.

Although born in Montreal, Watts lived in Canada for only six months before moving to Oklahoma. Watts, 33, went on to become a two-time, first-team All-American at Oklahoma State and talks with a drawl that is pure Okie. His best friend on tour is fellow Oklahoman Bob Tway.

Watts has a legitimate gripe. Andrew Magee, Watts' close friend, was born in Paris and is eligible to play in the Ryder Cup.

"If you'd like to call the PGA of America, I'd like every one of you to," Watts said. "Just call them today. I would appreciate that. I never got my citizenship until I was 16 years old.

"The PGA of America, which runs the Ryder Cup, has decided that American-born players, which is how it is quoted in its rules from 1927, means that you must be born in the United States. It is kind of interesting to know because there is a player that wasn't born in the United States that is eligible for the Ryder Cup."

Watts, whose father was English and his mother German, can't understand why certain athletes are granted permission to play on the U.S. Olympic team.

"I definitely would like to be considered for the Ryder Cup team," Watts said. "I find it is a very strange ruling, especially when you look at the Olympics, you have got Olympians that play for the U.S. team that only get their citizenship to play on the U.S. team, and that was definitely not the case when I was 16. I wasn't thinking about the Ryder Cup when I was 16 years old. It is a very strange ruling as far as I am concerned."

Watts said PGA officials told him they planned to review Magee's eligibility. The PGA has not made any public comment about the situation.

MISSING IN ACTION

Carlos Franco, the Paraguayan sensation who won his first PGA Tour event in New Orleans earlier this month, never showed up at TPC at Avenel this week, missing his tee time yesterday afternoon and earning a disqualification.

Franco, 33, who was given one of the event's few coveted sponsor's exemptions, never called tournament organizers to explain his absence. Curtis Strange, on the other hand, called General Chairman Ben Brundred on Wednesday to inform him that he was withdrawing from the tournament, following appropriate PGA Tour protocol.

"I would suspect that there might be disciplinary action involved," said PGA Tour media liaison Lee Patterson yesterday.

Unless Franco has an extremely compelling explanation, a fine will be forthcoming. The PGA Tour does not disclose specific amounts when it fines a player.

Q-SCHOOL BLUES

The PGA Tour's qualifying school has been called the most pressurized event in all of sports.

Brian Henninger has firsthand knowledge of how unforgiving Q-school really is. Henninger, who enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame by leading through two rounds at the 1995 Masters (T10), dropped to 142nd on the money list the following year and lost his Tour card.

"It's definitely the most sickening thing there is," Henninger said of having to go back to Q-school. "Let's put it this way, one year I shot in three qualifying rounds - the first stage, second stage and third stage - I shot a cumulative 34-under par and didn't make the tour. …