Golf Expert & Columnist
Ryder Cup: Delay or postpone? Andrew Coltart examines the key factors
"The biggest impact of a Ryder Cup without fans would be the loss of atmosphere. These players are all entertainers and thrive on performing in front of the fans at close quarters, so to lose that would be awful"
Last Updated: 23/04/20 1:27pm
One of the hottest topics for discussion in golf remains the fate of the Ryder Cup, and whether the event should be moved to next year or played with no fans this year. As Andrew Coltart explains, there are many factors to consider ...
The Ryder Cup is enormous, and there's no doubt the crowds make it into the huge sporting spectacle it is. It doesn't matter whether it's in Europe or in the US, the atmosphere is something you will never experience at any other golfing event around the world.
The world has been in a dark place in recent months, and any big sporting events can only go ahead when it is fundamentally safe to do so. It's an opportunity for golf to give something back, a chance to raise the spirits among both players and fans.
We've been so bereft of any live sport over the last couple of months, and sport can be key in bringing the world back together once the threat of coronavirus is over. But when that happens remains to be seen, and it's impossible to predict at the moment.
There's a possibility that many sports will resume behind closed doors, but can the Ryder Cup go ahead as scheduled without any spectators? Should it follow the lead of The Open and be put back to next year? There are so many factors to consider.
VOTE: Ryder Cup without fans?
The Ryder Cup is one of the most-eagerly anticipated events in the sporting calendar, but could the competition go ahead without spectators?
Cancelling for this year would have a massive economic impact on the PGA of America, the home organiser, and the European Tour. Both need the revenue from the Ryder Cup generated by television rights and all the various investors and sponsors.
There is also the local economy to take into account, and many businesses close to Whistling Straits will be reliant on the significant extra income from the thousands of spectators that would normally attend such a big event.
You could argue it would still be a success without the investment, but the biggest impact of a Ryder Cup without fans would be the loss of atmosphere. Such a competition would be very difficult for the players if the crowds were depleted. These players are all entertainers and thrive on performing in front of the fans at close quarters, so to lose that would be awful.
We had a reminder of just what a difference a big crowd can make to an event when we watched the highlights of the Miracle at Medinah last weekend. You had Bubba and Poulter whipping up the crowd on the first tee, and the spectators were 15-20 deep all the way down the fairway and to the green.
Even when it's a hostile environment and some fans regard the away team as the enemy, it's still fantastic for the players to be in front of and to experience. Yes, it has got a little abusive and personal at times, but the crowds on both sides of the Atlantic in recent years have been outstanding.
The home crowd have often been a 13th man over the years, so that's another thing to consider and should enhance Europe's chances of retaining the Ryder Cup in Wisconsin if it goes ahead behind locked gates.
Having said that, it's possible the PGA Tour could see a lot more tournaments than the European Tour leading into the Ryder Cup, although most of the European players would probably get into those events anyway.
There's no doubt that Steve Stricker would be desperate to use the crowd to his advantage, just like Davis Love and his team did in a one-sided contest at Hazeltine in 2016.
We must not forget that the Ryder Cup goes beyond golf. It attracts fans of all sports who may just take a passing interest in golf from time to time, but when the Ryder Cup comes around it is required viewing all over the world.
When the crowd get behind the home team, it's the same as in any sport and is to be expected, as long as it doesn't go too far.
The knock-on effect
Of course, it's all very well to postpone the Ryder Cup for a year, but what about the knock-on effect? There's the Solheim Cup, and the Presidents Cup scheduled for 2021, so do they get bumped back a year as well or do they try to squeeze all three in next year?
We need to look at the bigger picture when offering our opinions on this year's Ryder Cup, you have to remember the logistics of every big event, and the fact they take years of planning.
Yes, the Ryder Cup is a massive event, but we cannot forget the wider golfing community and consider other big events in the equation. The whole golfing calendar cannot revolve around the Ryder Cup.
Whatever happens, we have to respect the worldwide situation in terms of coronavirus. We cannot put lives at risk, and we have to do what is right. It's more than just about playing a Ryder Cup, it's about being smart and planning for all eventualities.
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It's an unprecedented situation and very difficult. The Ryder Cup could go ahead without fans and we would have to do everything possible to make it a success.
It would not feel right, but by the autumn, the sporting world will be crying out for anything.