Ryder Cup 2020 is finally put back for 12 months
Whistling Straits event gets moved back to September 2021 Harrington says decision correct to protect atmosphere
The 2020 Ryder Cup has been postponed for 12 months. The biennial match between the United States and Europe was scheduled to take place at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin from Sept 25, but organisers have decided they did not want to stage the event without spectators. The Daily Telegraph reported in March that the showpiece competition was likely to be shelved this year.
After months of conjecture, debate, haggling and even the threat of a player boycott, the Ryder Cup has finally been postponed for a year. The biennial dust-up will now take place at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, in September 2021.
The Daily Telegraph reported as long ago as March that, due to the escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was expected that the match would be shelved for 2020, with both organising bodies – the PGA of America and the European Tour – quickly recognising there would be insurmountable hurdles to hosting the biggest draw in the game in front of 50,000-plus fans.
Yet despite these early acknowledgements, the golf business machine whirred into action, with the PGA Tour objecting to the effect the cancellation would have on its own Presidents Cup – the pale imitation that is played between the United States and the Internationals in the non-Ryder Cup years – and, more to the point, its finances.
Be sure that some sort of deal will have been reached between the Tour and the PGA of America, particularly as their respective chief executives, Jay Monahan and Seth Waugh, are exceptionally close. Meanwhile, the European Tour basically sat back and watched the saga unfold, saying little in public but insisting in private that its own bank balance could withstand the economic blow.
That is when the scenario of a Ryder Cup behind closed doors was first mooted, with an increasingly confused Padraig Harrington, the European captain, changing his tune several times, from saying: “It can’t happen,” to: “It might happen,” and back and forth at various junctures. That is when the players became involved.
Rory McIlroy, the world No1, was bullish in his response to the rumours, maintaining that the golfers should not just be expected to turn up and play in a fanless arena, while Brooks Koepka went as far to suggest that some players would elect to stay away.
Steve Stricker, the US captain, struck another blow for the “it just wouldn’t be a Ryder Cup” majority when announcing it would be “a crime” to Wisconsinites if spectators were not allowed in, warning it would be “a yawner”. Stricker later suggested that if they could find a way to accommodate 25,000 fans, the players would be assuaged and it could go ahead.
Waugh claimed yesterday that “we got excited with the idea of reduced fans, say 10,000”, but that was never practical, as shown by the PGA Tour abandoning the plan to play next week’s Memorial TourBy nament in front of 8,000. So eventually, after all the back-room bartering, an agreement was made that sees the Presidents Cup moved to 2022, with the Ryder Cup returning to the odd years on the schedule that was lost when the 2001 match was suspended in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.
This makes so much more sense from a marketing point of view as the Ryder Cup, sometimes referred to as “the third-biggest event in sport” will no longer be held in the same year as the Olympics. Italy will be happy to have another year to prepare as hosts for 2023, while at Adare Manor in Ireland they are celebrating the fact that the 2027 match will be the centenary year.
Thank goodness this rigmarole has reached its conclusion, albeit in a hail of unashamed public relations words. “It became clear that as of today, our medical experts and the public authorities in Wisconsin could not give us certainty that conducting an event responsibly with thousands of spectators in September would be possible,” Waugh said.
“As disappointing as this is, our mandate to do all we can to safeguard public health is what matters most. The spectators who support both the US and European sides are what make the Ryder Cup such a unique and compelling event and playing without them was not a realistic option.
“We are grateful to commissioner Jay Monahan and our partners at the PGA Tour for their flexibility and generosity in the complex task of shifting the global golf calendar.”
Harrington was similarly humble, as the Irishman became accustomed to emulating Sam Torrance’s three-year reign in 2002.
“When you think of the Ryder Cup you think of the distinctive atmosphere generated by the spectators, such as around the first tee at Le Golf National two years ago,” he said. “If that cannot be responsibly recreated at Whistling Straits in September, then it is correct we all wait until it can be.
“I know, right now, that September 2021 feels like a long time away, but it will come around quickly and I guarantee that the European players and I will be ready when it does.”