The Ryder Cup has become the latest major global sporting event to fall victim to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the PGA of America postponing the men’s team golf event by a year to 2021.
The biennial competition between the United States and Europe was scheduled to be held on September 25-27 at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. It will now be held at the same venue on September 24-26, 2021.
The postponement had been expected for a number of weeks due to rising coronavirus cases in the United States, the likelihood that fans would not be able to attend the event, and the complexity of international travel in the current climate.
In April, PGA of America chief executive Seth Waugh hinted that the tournament could be held without spectators. But the governing body, along with fellow organizers the European Tour, eventually rejected this proposal after pushback from a number of leading stakeholders. Ryder Cup fandom is among the most ardent and raucous in golf, and the atmosphere generated from in-person attendance traditionally has a core part of the event’s overall appeal.
United States captain Steve Stricker said it would be a “crime” if the Ryder Cup was staged behind closed doors.
“I just can’t see [the Ryder Cup] going ahead without fans,” leading European player Rory McIlroy said last month.
American Brooks Koepka added: “I don’t want to play if there’s no fans. The fans make that event. The fans make that special.”
The move to 2021 will mean a realignment for future Ryder Cups. Europe’s next tournament, due to be held at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, located 17km from the centre of Rome, will now take place in 2023 instead of 2022.
Earlier this week, PGA Tour’s Memorial Tournament abandoned its plan to have limited spectators at next week’s event due to the rapidly changing dynamics of the coronavirus crisis, highlighting the potential problems the Ryder Cup would have faced.
“Unlike other major sporting events that are played in existing stadiums, we had to make a decision now about building facilities to host the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits,” Waugh said in a statement. “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.
“Given that uncertainty, we knew rescheduling was the right call. We are grateful to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and our partners at the Tour for their flexibility and generosity in the complex task of shifting the global golf calendar. 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 U.S. and European sides are what make the Ryder Cup such a unique and compelling event and playing without them was not a realistic option,” Waugh said.
Franco Chimenti, president of the Italian Golf Federation, told The Associated Press that the postponement gives Rome more time to prepare the 2023 event. “We would have been ready (by 2022), and now we’ll be ready by 2023,” Chimenti said. “We’re about to inaugurate the course. We don’t have problems.”
The Ryder Cup rescheduling will create some ripple effects in other parts of the overall golf calendar. The Presidents Cup, which was initially slated for September 30-October 3, 2021, at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, will now be played September 19-25, 2022.
In turn, the Wells Fargo Championship will now be played at its traditional venue at Quail Hollow Club in 2021, at TPC Potomac in Maryland in 2022, and back at Quail Hollow in 2023.