Rory McIlroy: 'A Ryder Cup without fans is not a Ryder Cup'

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While the golf world has been working to put together a revised schedule for the rest of the PGA Tour season in recent weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ryder Cup is still scheduled for it’s original dates in September.

The biennial competition between the United States and Europe is currently set to start on September 25 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

Yet if there can’t be fans present at that event due to the coronavirus — which is how at least the first few Tour events will be held when play resumes in June — Rory McIlroy would rather not have the event take place at all.

“I get the financial implications for everyone involved,” McIlroy said during an Instagram Live on Tuesday, via ESPN. “There’s a lot that goes into putting on the Ryder Cup that people don’t appreciate, but having a Ryder Cup without fans is not a Ryder Cup.

“It wouldn’t be a great spectacle. There’d be no atmosphere. So if it came to whether they had to choose between not playing the event or playing it without fans, I would say just delay it a year and play it in 2021.”

The Ryder Cup — and the Presidents Cup, for that matter — are unlike any other golf tournament in the world largely due to the loud, passionate support from fans cheering on their country or continent’s team.

Both the PGA of America and the European Tour, which put on the Ryder Cup, have discussed holding it without fans present, however, which will completely alter the atmosphere of the team competition — something the golf world usually sees just once each year.

“It’s hard to imagine one without fans,” PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh said on WFAN this week, via GolfDigest. “We have begun to talk about whether you could create some virtual fan experience, and we’re going to try to be as creative as we can. It’s to be determined, frankly, whether you could hold it without fans or not.”

Team Europe's Rory McIlroy celebrates during the Singles match on day three of the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Paris.
Team Europe's Rory McIlroy celebrates during the Singles match on day three of the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Paris. (Gareth Fuller/PA Images/Getty Images)

Is postponing one year possible?

Postponing the Ryder Cup by a year is definitely possible, and has been done in the past.

The 2001 Ryder Cup was postponed by a year to 2002 following the September 11 attacks, so the precedent is there.

To actually accomplish that, however, is easier said than done. Both the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup — the biennial competition held opposite of the Ryder Cup, which is next scheduled to take place in September 2021 in North Carolina — would need to be pushed back by a year going forward, which means rescheduling several events around the world while still fitting in with the PGA Tour, European Tour and Olympics schedules.

Though McIlroy knows that a fan-less Ryder Cup would actually be beneficial for the Europeans this time, he said it’s still not worth it. And, should they delay by a year, McIlroy believes it would significantly benefit the 2022 Ryder Cup — which is currently scheduled to take place in Italy, a country hit extremely hard by the coronavirus.

“Obviously it would be better for the Europeans to play without fans because we wouldn’t have to deal with some of the stuff you have to put up with, but at the same time it’s not a Ryder Cup,” McIlroy said, via ESPN.

“If they do delay it until 2021, the next Ryder Cup is in Italy, and we know how badly Italy was affected by the coronavirus, so it gives them an extra year to prepare for the event in 2023.”

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