The CEO of the PGA of America, Seth Waugh, says that the organisation is looking into the prospect of conducting the 2020 Ryder Cup without spectators present.
Waugh conducted interviews last week where he admitted that whilst it's "hard to imagine" the event having no fans, discussions are still under way to work out the best possible outcome for one of golf's biggest events, held biennially in September and scheduled this year for Whilsting Straits, Wisconsin.
Speaking to New York's WFAN, Waugh commented:
"We have begun to talk about whether you can create some virtual fan experience, and we're going to try be as creative as we can. It's still to be determined, frankly, whether you could hold it without fans or not."
"All of them (events) are better with fans, and I'm not suggesting it doesn't change the experience, but in the Ryder Cup it's particularly important. We'll be very careful about that. It's a very unique thing."
There has been plenty of reaction to this interview across the golfing world, and there has been plenty of differing opinions from fans, pundits and players towards the idea of a spectator-less event.
For example Team Europe spearhead and World Number One Rory McIlroy, insisted that he would rather see the event postponed than have to play behind closed doors at Whilstling Straits in September.
Speaking on an Instagram Live interview with TaylorMade Golf, McIlroy commented:
"A Ryder Cup without fans is not a Ryder Cup. It wouldn't be a great spectacle, there'd be no atmosphere, so if it came to whether they had to choose between not playing the event or playing it without fans, I would say just delay it a year and play it in 2021."
Given that much of the event's popularity is based upon the loyal support of the fans and the significant home advantage it provides, it may detract massively from the overall spectacle if the USA and Europe do battle behind closed doors at Whistling Straits.
Here at Golfalot we have been discussing this news, and some differing opinions have come across regarding playing a Ryder Cup with no fans:
FOR The Ryder Cup Being Played In 2020
Dan Box: You have to think that a postponement is the most likely option at the moment, with just five months to go until the opening tee shot is set to be struck at Whistling Straits.
It would have to take a massive improvement in the global outlook of the COVID-19 pandemic for local authorities and golfing organisations to deem it safe enough for this event to go ahead. Even if fans aren't present, there are still going to be 30 golfers and captains coming from all over the country and further afield, along with hundreds of members of support team, event volunteers, TV crews and plenty more.
However I am of the opinion that, if it is safe and at all possible, the event should go ahead this September, and I'll give you three reasons why.
1. We need some golf
With the football season currently in limbo (and games almost certainly to be played behind closed doors for the foreseeable future), The Olympics cancelled, EURO 2020 cancelled, Wimbledon cancelled, and plenty of other events heading the same way, the prospect of golf's biggest and most exciting event going ahead is a bit of hope to cling on to!
Non-golf fans also enjoy watching the Ryder Cup so perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to usher in a whole new audience to the game, considering there will probably be little else on TV to watch. Imagine if Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are paired against each other in a crucial singles match down the stretch on Sunday?
By September, the world will be crying out for world-class sporting event, and the Ryder Cup could help to fill the void and signal the beginning of life getting 'back to normal' in some way.
2. Financial implications
Not only is the Ryder Cup one of the most popular events in golf for fans, it is also crucial to golfing organisations including the PGA and European Tour, who rely on its revenue to stay afloat.
There would also be a huge knock-on effect for local businesses in Wisconsin, who have been preparing for months to welcome thousands of fans into the community.
Looking long-term too, a postponement until 2021 could make things even more difficult when you consider that the Solheim Cup and Presidents Cup are both already scheduled for next year, along with a great deal of planning and preparation underway for Europe's next chance to host the event in Italy in 2022. Moving one event will mean a whole host of other events are affected - and the whole golfing calendar should not be shifted just to accommodate one event which Rory McIlroy once described as an 'exhibition'.
3. Could it actually help to produce better quality golf?
Home advantage seems to be becoming more and more important with each passing Ryder Cup, as home crowds get more and more raucous in the hope of cheering on their side, to the extent that opposing players are roundly booed, heckled and even intentionally distracted whilst playing.
Some golfers and fans may laugh this off as all part of the fun, but I am willing to bet that a number of team members would much rather the crowds behaved more like those of a typical Tour event, even if they aren't brave enough to say that in public.
Whilst the likes of Ian Poulter and Patrick Reed seem to feed off the vociferous atmosphere, it would be interesting to see whether the overall quality of the golf is affected with no fans present.
Ok, having a much quieter course may not get the adrenaline pumping in the same way, but allowing golfers to focus on the task in hand and perform to their best might mean that we don't see a repeat of the US Team's showing at Le Golf National, where they were barely able to find the fairway and simple pars were enough for the Europeans to win plenty of holes.
At the end of the day, it may be better to see the 24 best players in the US and Europe playing at their best to see which team really does deserve to win, rather than just relying on huge noisy crowds to edge the home team over the line.
AGAINST The Ryder Cup Being Played In 2020
George Stead: What is wrong with playing the Ryder Cup in 2021? I genuinely see no problem with that. The only complication is going to come from the players who could potentially be facing an extremely busy playing calendar next year - the U.S especially given the fact the Presidents Cup takes place next year too. However, given the circumstances, I think that is the least of our worries.
1. We've done it before, we can do it again
It seems fairly simple to me - they postponed the Ryder Cup in 2001 due to the 9/11 tragedy. I don't see why we can't take a similar approach this time around - yes we love the Ryder Cup, yes it will be missed, but there is something a little more important going on right now. Golf can wait.
The 2002 Ryder Cup which was then played at The Belfry was a huge success with no problems and complications that may have taken away from the event if it had happened as originally planned in 2001. If anything, the delay heightened the anticipation for it making it a more special event than it may have been had it taken place in 2001.
I would imagine this to be the case if we moved the Ryder Cup to next year also. If we played in 2021, once the first ball is teed up come Friday morning, every thing else is forgotten about - it's all about the golf, and that's the way it should be. But if the tournament goes ahead this year without fans, during a global pandemic I doubt very much that would be the case.
Don't the let the golf be affected.
2. Rory's right, it's as much about the fans as the golf
Unlike any other golf tournament, the Ryder Cup relies upon it's relationship with the fans. I wouldn't go as far to say its 'audience-participation', but I would say that history has proven that it's certainly the golf tournament that is most affected by the fans and their involvement. Therefore without them, would it be the Ryder Cup? To me it's like playing The Open on a parkland golf course. Ok, you could do it, but you never really would, because it simply wouldn't be as good.
Would the 'Miracle of Medinah' have taken place without the fans? Arguably one of sport's all-time greatest comebacks? I think not. The players have said it themselves, when they hear a roar from across the golf course from their owns fans it can have a huge impact, and those kinds of impacts have become a huge part of the Ryder Cup and history. I'm not sure that's something we want to lose.
3. Could the Ryder Cup be played every four years anyway?
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I'm going to go with it anyway. Is there not a wider argument here that the Ryder Cup could actually see benefits from being played every four years instead of every two anyway?
We look forward to the Ryder Cup now, can you imagine how much we would look forward to if it took place even less often?
It's like the offside rule in football. We take it as a given and just another part of the game but then when you really think about it, would the game be any worse off without it? I'm not sure it would - and it's the same with the Ryder Cup. I genuinely think playing it less would mean more of a spectacle when it is played.
What do you think? Who's opinion do you agree with? Let us know below!
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