Ewen Murray welcomes the return of live golf, but can the Ryder Cup go ahead without fans?
"We'll note what happens in the weeks ahead, but to play the Ryder Cup without fans would be close to criminal"
Last Updated: 18/05/20 11:19pm
Ewen Murray gives an encouraging verdict on the return of live golf and was impressed with the logistical achievements of putting on a show at Seminole, but questions whether the Ryder Cup can go ahead without spectators...
After nine weeks of no live golf, the sport took some small tentative steps into the future on Sunday with the TaylorMade Driving Relief Skins match live from the much-heralded Seminole golf club in Florida.
Technically, it was a resounding success and all of those involved in delivering it to our homes, take a bow. The match between Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolﬀ was watched by millions of golf fans across the globe, yet so few put it all together.
Six hand-held cameras and an "air cam" to cover 19 holes across four hours, 20 minutes, was mighty impressive. Had more cameras been permitted, the foursome would have covered the 18 holes in comfortably under four hours. Now and again, there were short delays for the players to allow the excellent cameramen to get into position.
The host, Mike Tirico, is a class act and, from his home in Michigan,1,400 miles away, opened the show with an economy of words and was as eloquent as ever. Paul Azinger has moved from the course to the booth with ease. His analysis on the swing of Matt Wolﬀ was precise, concise, and easy for every golfer, whatever standard, to understand. A prime requisite for a commentator.
On a personal note, I would have enjoyed hearing more from the players, but what else can we take from the first live golf to hit our screens for 66 days?
After nine weeks of little practice and no competitive play, I don't think any of us expected to see those four players at their best. There were loose shots now and again, yet there were top moments sprinkled throughout the round.
The ﬁrst of these, Wolﬀ, winning the long drive at the second. A 320-yard carry over the fairway bunker with 30 yards of run was good enough to put $100,000 into his and Rickie's fund. There were some ﬁne approach shots over both nines, but all who play this game will agree, a lay-oﬀ presents a lack of sharpness around the greens and all four struggled at some point in this department.
Once they get an event or two under their belts, their tournament toughness will return. We look upon Rory as a youngster, yet Matt is a decade behind him in terms of years. We saw enough last year to know he's one to watch, that was conﬁrmed in Florida. I enjoyed watching live golf again and the 'Fab Four' were thrilled to be playing it again.
It's more about the club at Seminole, one of the most revered in America. The small piece of land it covers required much thought and it is just one of many fine Donald Ross designs throughout the US. Apart from the few holes hugging the Eastern Seaboard, the rest was swampland. Not so much of a problem in these modern times, but a Herculean eﬀort was required in days of yore.
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It's a lovely members course, but the distance the ball travels today dates it a little. Its condition was what you would expect and many holes oﬀered birdie chances which of course is ideal for a Skins format.
Sport, without fans, takes so much away from the spectacle, but in these unprecedented times, we are going to have to get used to it, or wait a long time before we can get back to what we had.
I watched the Bundesliga match on Saturday, a normally vociferous derby between Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke, and it was tough viewing. The thud of the ball, the echoing sounds from the bench, and some good goals greeted by near silence.
It got me thinking of the Ryder Cup in September. We all want to see the match get underway at Whistling Straits; the television companies, golf fans the world over, the players, the captains etc. It's a while away yet and things may change for the better.
Should it be played without spectators, I think come the closing ceremony, many of us would be thinking: "I wish we hadn't done that." I would be saddened if that were the case. The Ryder Cup's oxygen comes from the atmosphere the fans create and the players respond to that.
The venue is well out in the sticks, the nearest city is over 60 miles away. Fans would visit the course via park and ride, queues for buses either end, cramped on those buses to and from. An incubator, I'm afraid for this virus we have to deal with and see oﬀ.
We'll note what happens in the weeks ahead, but to play the Ryder Cup without fans would be close to criminal. To play it with them, could be much more serious. I reiterate though, that date is a long way oﬀ, so ﬁngers crossed.
To end on a much brighter note, many of you would have enjoyed the relaxed round on Sunday evening. Top professionals carrying their clubs, working out the yardages, wiping the clubs clean after their shots, reading their own putts and playing in shorts, which surely will be allowed on tournament days in the near future.
I also think pace of play will again be addressed at the various tours throughout the world, so a lot of good came from Seminole. The ﬁrst move forward towards some sort of normality has happened and, all things being equal, the PGA Tour will return in just over three weeks. Colonial Country Club in Texas is on the horizon.
Finally, I'm sure you'll permit me to say well done to the Sky production team. The commentator, producer and director did a sterling job from their own front rooms.
If only America had less commercial breaks!