The Ryder Cup Looks Set To Be Postponed
IT IS widely reported and predicted that the Ryder Cup will be called off this week. European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley had promised an announcement by the end of June and with continued failed Covid-19 tests on the PGA Tour and increasing numbers of players calling for the biennial event to be postponed until 2021 it is inevitable that the powers-that-be will give in to the inevitable in the coming days.
This is the time when the building programme for the match between the United States and Europe, scheduled for September 25-27 at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, would need to begin.
Ever since coronavirus shut the world of sport in March there has been speculation that the Ryder Cup would be postponed, and former European captain Darren Clarke is the latest to call for it to be cancelled.
"A Ryder Cup without fans is not really a Ryder Cup," Clarke said. “A postponement would probably be the best way forward and make it bigger and better than ever next year. To play it behind closed doors maybe would be a slight advantage to the European team because the Americans wouldn't have their home support, which counts for a lot, but all the guys revel in the atmosphere. The whole atmosphere buzzes around the golf course and that's a hugely important part of the Ryder Cup."
Playing golf's biggest team event behind closed doors is a non-starter and several top players, led by world number one Rory McIlroy, have said it should not be played without fans. And Brooks Koepka, said he would consider boycotting it if it were staged behind closed doors.
It is not as straightforward as considering what the players want. Hugely lucrative television and sponsorship contracts help to fund the PGA of America, who run the US side of the Ryder Cup, as well as the European Tour and Professional Golfers' Association. A key factor in football’s Premier League restarting was down to the fact that if it hadn’t the clubs would have had to pay hundreds of millions pounds back to broadcasters.
Moving the match to 2021 would, of course, force a significant restructuring of the golf calendar, although in the short term it would create a free week for the European Tour to stage a rescheduled Irish Open in September.
But next year there would be clashes with the Presidents Cup, Olympic Games and Europe's defence of the Solheim Cup in the women's game. The Solheim switched to odd years after the 2001 Ryder Cup was postponed because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Presidents Cup pits America's men against the rest of the world outside Europe and is growing in worth and credibility. Moving the Ryder Cup would impact both events.
There are also suggestions that NBC, who screen the Ryder Cup in the United States, would prefer the match to revert back to odd years. This would mean it would happen away from the usual shadow of Olympics and football World Cups.
However, for that to happen the bodies that profit from the Ryder Cup would then have to absorb a cycle between their biggest paydays of five rather than four years. And it would need to be accommodated at a time of global economic recession.
The European Tour is due to return in Austria later this month before six events in the UK. There will be no fans and none will be present for the first two majors - the US PGA Championship in August and the US Open at Winged Foot in New York the following month.
Former European captain Paul McGinley believes the Ryder Cup could still go ahead without spectators. He said: "Let's not just cancel because there is no crowd, because every other sport is getting on with it without spectators and golf has to do the same."
Thomas Bjorn, who led Europe to victory in Paris in 2018, said: "Even if you postpone it until 2021, we don't know where we are going to be. We are all talking almost like on December 31, this whole thing is going to come to a stop and we can start a new year, everything is OK, but we don't know that for a fact."
If it is delayed, how will the teams be selected? US skipper Steve Stricker has had the number of his picks increased from four to six. Will performances on the current qualifying table be honoured? When it was postponed in 2001 the teams that turned out at The Belfry 12 months later were those that had originally qualified. Difficult decisions lie ahead.
The Ryder Cup is unlike any other tournament in golf and the atmosphere is something that every golf fan should experience. The experts at Golfbreaks.com can help with all aspects of your Ryder Cup experience, from accommodation and ticket packages to hospitality and travel and playing some of the fantastic nearby courses.
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