What Should Happen if the Ryder Cup is Postponed?
SHOULD the 2020 Ryder Cup go ahead? European captain Padraig Harrington believes it should. Paul Casey, Graeme McDowell and Tommy Fleetwood don’t agree.
You could argue that McDowell and Casey are taking their stance because they are currently not in the automatic qualification spots, but Fleetwood is a shoo-in. The bottom line is that we have already lost The Masters, the US PGA Championship and the Players Championship, along with a whole host of other tournaments on both the European and PGA Tours, so the qualification process is currently in tatters.
It is looking increasingly unlikely that the US Open will now take place in June and there are growing fears for The Open at Royal St George’s in July. On top of that, will we see the Irish Open and Scottish Open being played? They are both Rolex events that carry huge amounts of prize money and ranking points and would normally go a long way towards helping to shape the European team.
Surely it makes more sense to postpone the Ryder Cup for 12 months. It has happened once before. The 2001 edition at The Belfry was put off for 12 months after 9/11 and has been held in even years ever since. And it has to be said that the 2002 Ryder Cup was a tipping point for the event. Nobody who witnessed it will ever forget the awful scenes we witnessed at Brookline at in 1999 when Justin Leonard holed a huge putt on the 17th green in his match against Jose Maria Olazabal and the entire US team, their wives, caddies et al raced across the green while Olazabal still had a putt to half the hole.
When they got to The Belfry three years later, peace had broken out. There are far more important things in life than golf, as 9/11 proved. And when the teams do finally face up to one another again at Whistling Straits after the coronavirus has been beaten we can be certain that it will once again surely be played in the right spirit.
McDowell, who holed the winning putt at Celtic Manor in 2010, believes this year’s clash should be postponed unless a viable tournament schedule can be put together leading up to it.
He states the Ryder Cup should not be top of the list when it comes to redrawing the season. “To me the Major Championships take priority over the Ryder Cup,” said McDowell, who stands one place outside the qualification places on the world points list. “It’s only going to be a viable opportunity if we feel good about the qualifying process and we feel the teams are legitimate. When you see the high-level stuff like the Olympic Games postponed, I don’t think you can put the cup in that category.”
Fleetwood, one of the stars of Europe’s victory in Paris in 2018, accepts it may have to be shifted into 2021. “It would be a shame and feel weird to have to wait for so long after the last Ryder Cup but you just have to take whatever comes. And it would be fairer in qualification terms for it to be pushed back,” said Fleetwood.
Casey also wants to see it put off for 12 months. "I am never a fan of postponing stuff but it's been postponed before, so why can't it happen again? As disappointing as that would be, you want it to be as good as possible, as spectacular as possible," Casey said. "If it's going to put lives at risk then we have to and that's an obvious. Yes, I think it's a really strong possibility, would I support it being postponed? If it has to, then yes I would.”
Casey has more reason than most to want a cancellation. He was denied the opportunity of winning the Valspar Championship for a third consecutive time and now finds himself at home in Arizona playing football with his young son. The 42-year-old, whose elderly parents recently returned to England from South Africa, is acutely aware of the seriousness of the current situation.
"I was looking forward to going for three in a row, but it's amazing how quickly things have changed,” he said. "The situation is no longer about golf. It's about worrying about people's safety, people's health and the economic impact of that.”
Ranked 24th in the world, Casey is currently outside the qualifying berths for what would be a fifth Ryder Cup. "The excitement when we do get back will be brilliant. People will be craving golf and I know I will be craving golf and looking forward to getting back out there."
So what should happen? The PGA Tour season is due to end in August at the Tour Championship, with the 2020-21 season scheduled to kick off almost immediately. That is clearly no longer going to happen. The Tour Championship is due to be played from August 27-30.
And no matter how much we enjoy the Ryder Cup and look forward to watching our brave boys give the Americans a hiding, the majors are clearly more important. The Ryder Cup is due to be played at Whistling Straits from September 25-27. If it is cancelled it would immediately free up a week for one of the three American majors and the most likely one to be slotted in at that point would be The Masters, if only because the weather at Augusta will still be warm and sunny at that time of year.
If we assume that The Open is the most likely of the four majors to still go ahead, that leaves us with the US Open and US PGA Championship. So what about staging the US PGA Championship the week after the Tour Championship, from September 3-6, then give the players a week off before holding the US Open from September 17-20. Just imagine the excitement that would be generated by having three majors in one month.
There is one complication in all of this. September is a busy month on the European Tour, with the European Open, BMW PGA Championship and KLM Open all scheduled to be played. Clearly, the European Tour would be reluctant to cancel the PGA Championship, which is its flagship event and is due to be played from September 10-13. Is it reasonable to expect the likes of Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm to fly in from America, play at Wentworth and then fly back out again for the US Open?
Why not? This is precisely what most American golfers do when they play in The Open, spending just a week in Britain before heading back across the Atlantic.
There are no easy answers, and it may well be that we end up having to live without the majors in 2020.
For the record, if the Ryder Cup were to be played tomorrow, these are the players who currently sit in the automatic qualification places:
Tommy Fleetwood (Eng)
Jon Rahm (Spa)
Rory McIlroy (NI)
Victor Perez (Fra)
Tyrrell Hatton (Eng)
Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng)
Danny Willett (Eng)
Lee Westwood (Eng)
Bernd Weisberger (Aus)
Harrington has three captain’s picks, which would allow him to select three from Justin Rose (Eng), Casey (Eng), McDowell (NI), Shane Lowry (Ire), Ian Poulter (Eng) and Henrik Stenson (Swe). It means that we could see a team featuring eight Englishmen.
There are four captain’s picks and the players who occupy the next four positions are:
As things stand, there is little doubt that the advantage would stand with the USA. It is difficult to see how US captain Steve Stricker could possibly field a stronger team.
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