The Ryder Cup may be one of golf’s great spectacles, but it becoming increasingly possible that the 2020 edition may be played behind closed doors with crowds present.
When the United States and Europe gets the 43rd Ryder Cup underway at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin on September 25, there may not be that huge roar as the first shot is struck.
The noise generated by partisan crowds is part and parcel of the Ryder Cup, but the 2020 Ryder Cup may be different in so many ways.
The coronavirus pandemic has already forced a signicant rescheduling of the 2020 golf calendar with three majors – the Masters, USPGA Championship and US Open – moved to dates later in the years and The Open Championship postponed until 2021.
The Ryder Cup remains scheduled to take place at Whistling Straits from September 25-27 with no decision taken on changing the dates.
But it looks the earlier opposition from European team captain Padraig Harrington and world number one Rory McIlroy, who said that “a Ryder Cup without fans, it’s not a Ryder Cup”, to the prospect of it being held without any crowds appears to be waning.
Should the Ryder Cup take one for the team?
Harrington has not said the bigger picture might see the 2020 Ryder Cup played behind closed doors for the benefit of golf as a whole, not to mention the European and United States governing bodies who stand to pocket millions in television rights fees.
“Everyone wants fans to be there, but the question is does sport need the Ryder Cup and should the Ryder Cup take one for the team?” Harrington told The Times.
“Would it be for the greater good of sport? It wouldn’t be in the Ryder Cup’s best interests, but it could be in the best interests of enough people who want to see a big sporting occasion on TV.”
2020 Ryder Cup crowds could be virtual
PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh had already tolf WFAN: “We have begun to talk about whether you could create some virtual fan experience, and we’re going to try to be as creative as we can. It’s [still] to be determined, frankly, whether you could hold it without fans or not.”
The cogs are in motion to play the Ryder Cup without spectactors rather the postpone a year, which would hamper the European team more given it would extend the time between home Ryder Cups – and the revenue they bring – to five years.
Europe won 17.5-10.5 at Le Golf National in Paris in 2018, and are due to be at home again at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club near Rome in Italy in 2022 – providing this year’s Ryder Cup isn’t moved back 12 months.
It may yet be that coronavirus allows for fans to be present at Whistling Straits, but it is looking increasingly less likely as the weeks go by. But we may still get a Ryder Cup, albeit played in an eerie silence.