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  • Alistair Tait

Common sense should prevail in Ryder Cup fans debate

How many more key players need to sound off before the PGA of America, the PGA Tour and European Tour get the message: the Ryder Cup just won’t be the same without fans?

It will be “a yawner.”

Well said Steve Stricker.

The U.S. captain is the latest to join Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and others on the importance fans bring to a Ryder Cup. Stricker told 'The Golf Affect,' a weekly Madison, Wisconsin radio show, he’s not too keen on captaining the U.S. team at Whistling Straits in his native Wisconsin if fans aren't allowed to attend the match.

“Personally, I would hate for that to happen. I mean, this event is made by the fans. To me, if it was without the fans it almost would be a yawner of an event. The passion, I don’t know if it would be there.
“The fans create all that unbelievable atmosphere that we play in front of. And without the fans, I don’t know. It still would be a nice event, but I think the fans make it everything. And to cheat out the fans of Wisconsin, I think would be a crime. So, I just hope that when we do have it, it can be up to its full potential.”

McIlroy has said publicly he wants to delay the match until next year if fans aren’t allowed. In April he said:

“If it came to whether they had to choose between not playing the Ryder Cup of playing it without fans. I would say just delay it a year.”
“Obviously it would be better for Europeans to play without fans because we wouldn’t deal with some of the stuff that you have to put up with, but at the same time, it wouldn’t be a great spectacle. There would be no atmosphere.”

McIlroy has since added:

“My personal hunch is, I don't see how it is going to happen.”

Four-time major winner Koepka believes staging the match sans fans would be pointless. He told the Golf Channel:

“I personally don’t want to play if there’s no fans. I don’t see a point in playing it.”

Former captains Darren Clarke and Tony Jacklin have chimed in to say the match won’t be the same without spectators.

Former PGA of America president Ted Bishop wrote on 'Morning Read:'

“The Ryder Cup is more about the fans than any other sports event. A made-for-TV Ryder Cup without the craziness of those zany and passionate fans would be a bust by NBC, Golf Channel and the PGA of America.”
“A Ryder Cup with no fans would be like Christmas without Santa Claus”.

Future Ryder Cup captain Lee Westwood conjured up a depressing image when he told the Golf Channel:

"I just don't see somebody holing the winning putt, from either side, turning to empty stands, raising his hands in the air and it feeling the same. If any tournament needs fans, it's that tournament. The fans are essential."

As things stand, the Ryder Cup is scheduled to go ahead September 25-27. A decision on staging the match is expected by the end of this month. European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley wouldn’t comment on the match during his tele–conference with journalists last week, other than to say talks are ongoing with the PGA of America, the PGA Tour and other key partners.

Remember all those years when the “spirit” of the competition was pushed down our throats as the key factor in the Ryder Cup? Supposedly the match only takes place to foster goodwill between the United States and Europe (formerly Great Britain & Ireland) as per Samuel Ryder’s original intent. Maybe, but let’s not forget money plays a huge part.

The European Tour bases its accounting cycle around the Ryder Cup. Every four years the tour receives a huge influx of cash when it stages the match in Europe. It also receives a small profit when the match is held in the U.S. Part of the reason the European Tour wants the match held, fans or no fans, is to honour its contracts with Sky Sports and other TV networks. Less live golf means less money. The match is a huge cash cow for the PGA of America.

Let’s hope common sense prevails over money and the match is delayed a year if fans can’t attend. A Ryder Cup without fans would be utterly soulless.

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