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Thursday, October 7, 1999 Published at 08:10 GMT

American golfers ask for forgiveness

Tom Lehman conducts the US galleries on the last day of the Ryder Cup

America's golfers have asked to be forgiven by their European counterparts for their actions at the Ryder Cup.

Tom Lehman: "Of course I feel sorry, but I didn't lead the charge at 17"
Tom Lehman and Mark O'Meara made the apologies ahead of their potentially tricky return to team action in the Dunhill Cup at St Andrews this week.

The three-man top-seeded US team consists of Lehman, O'Meara and Stewart, all of whom took part in the controversial victory at Brookline last month.

The Americans were widely criticised for their premature celebrations on the 17th green.

Players, wives and caddies ran onto the putting surface before Europe's Jose Maria Olazabal had taken his shot against

Lehman was singled out as one of the perpetrators of the fervent patriotism that helped the US to their remarkable final-day comeback.

But the former Open champion revealed that he has written to European captain Mark James to apologise for the players' behaviour.

And he denied that he had been a ring-leader of the 17th-hole celebrations or that he had stepped onto the line of Olazabal's putt.

'We were kids'

Before the start of the Dunhill Cup, Lehman said: "Everybody's sorry. What happened on the 17th green was unfortunate.

"We apologised then and there. I've since sent letters to people I want to deal with directly.

"We shouldn't have been on the green creating a commotion.

"We were all little kids that day, even old guys like Hal Sutton and me," said 40-year-old Lehman.

Lehman has been at the centre of the Ryder Cup row after Sam Torrance, vice-captain to James, called his reaction to Justin Leonard's winning putt "disgusting".

'I'm no hooligan'

The American, who has also written to Torrance, James and Leonard's opponent Jose Maria Olazabal, said: "I think it's a little bit unfortunate that the media thing has caused the focus to get off the golf.

[ image: Mark O'Meara cracks open the bubbly after the US victory]
Mark O'Meara cracks open the bubbly after the US victory
"Anybody who knows me knows the kind of person I am and I really don't think I'm any different a person today than I was a month ago or a year ago and it's of concern to me that my reputation has been somewhat damaged.

"I never walked on anybody's line, I'm not a monster, I'm not a rogue, I'm not a hooligan, so it's a little bit unfair.

"The goal of the letters I wrote and the phone calls I made was that we can leave friends. I definitely don't think it's worth losing friendships over a golf tournament."

O'Meara admitted the American reaction was wrong: "But we don't want any more fuss than there is right now," he said.

And he said he hoped there would be no backlash from Scottish fans.

"But I'm not denying it could come about," he said.

US kick-off against Kiwis

The Americans, who are top seeds for the St Andrews event, will play Sweden, New Zealand and Italy after the draw was made on Wednesday.

England, whose team includes James and Ryder Cup player Lee Westwood, will face Cup holders South Africa, China and India in the group stages of the competition.

Scotland's fourth seeded team will face Australia, Paraguay and Japan in the round-robin stages, while Ireland have been drawn with second seeds Spain.

The winners of each of the four groups will go through to the semi-finals on Sunday morning.

Draw for the group stages of the Alfred Dunhill Cup at St Andrews
Seeded positions in brackets:

Group 1: United States (1), Sweden (8), New Zealand, Italy.
Group 2: Scotland (4), Australia (5), Paraguay, Japan.
Group 3: South Africa (3), England (6), China, India.
Group 4: Spain (2), Ireland (7), France, Zimbabwe.

Winners of each round-robin group progress to semi-finals on Sunday morning. Final takes place on Sunday afternoon.

Dunhill Cup line-ups:

Australia: Stuart Appleby, Peter O'Malley, Craig Parry.

China: Cheng Jun, Wu Xiang-Bing, Zhang Lian-Wei.

England: David Howell, Mark James, Lee Westwood.

France: Marc Farry, Jean Francois Remesy, Jean Van de Velde.

India: Vijay Kumar, Jyoli Randhawa, Jeev Milkha Singh.

Ireland: Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley.

Italy: Emanuele Canonica, Costantino Rocca, Massimo Scarpa.

USA: Mark O'Meara, Payne Stewart, Tom Lehman

Japan: Isao Aoki, Tsuyoshi Yoneyama, Katsuyoshi Tormori.

New Zealand: Frank Nobilo, Phil Tataurangi, Greg Turner.

Paraguay: Angel Franco, Carlos Franco, Raul Fretes.

Scotland: Paul Lawrie, Sam Torrance (late replacement for Colin Montgomerie), Gary Orr.

South Africa: Ernie Els, David Frost, Retief Goosen.

Spain: Sergio Garcia, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jose Maria Olazabal.

Sweden: Gabriel Hjerstedt, Jarmo Sandelin, Patrik Sjoland.

Zimbabwe: Tony Johnstone, Mark McNulty, Nick Price.

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