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 Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By James Cor­ri­gan

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.”

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