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  • Alistair Tait

Common sense wins by 1 hole in Ryder Cup decision

Common sense seems set to prevail with the news the Ryder Cup is to be postponed until 2021.

Guardian golf writer Ewan Murray says the decision will be confirmed next week. Writing in today’s Guardian, he says:

“With health and safety concerns to the fore – playing the biennial competition without spectators has never been a serious option – postponement is now seen as the most responsible solution. As recently as last month hopes had been raised that the Ryder Cup could take place. The relevant parties have considered the US and Europe facing off in front of reduced numbers, with around 25,000 per day mooted, but that is not now thought viable amid coronavirus concerns. Ongoing travel restrictions – such as quarantine – are also a factor.”

Did player power play a part in reaching this wise decision? I hope so.

Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Lee Westwood and even U.S. Captain Steve Stricker have been quite vocal in calling for the match to be postponed if fans can’t attend. Hopefully the PGA of America has listened to their views to come to this wise decision.

The players are right: as I wrote previously, the match just can’t take place without the oxygen, the atmosphere, the fans deliver. Anyone who’s been to a Ryder Cup will tell you that. Westwood, who will more than likely captain the match in Italy in three years, put it most succinctly when he said:

“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."

Imagine a match without the Thunderclap. Ole, ole, ole! Even USA, USA! Two Molinaris. Imagine it without that song about Ian Poulter sung at Le Golf national two years ago. The lyrics are probably not suitable for this family website, but proof that European fans are more creative than U.S. counterparts. That was obvious at Valhalla in 2008. Standing on the first tee, U.S. captain Paul Azinger (BTW, why hasn’t he been given a second captaincy?) was mesmerised by the creativity of the European section of the stand singing “Henrik’s got a Fanny.” To the point where he turned to American fans chanting USA, USA ad nauseam and said:

“You guys need to learn more songs. We’re getting killed here.”

Take all that away and there is no Ryder Cup. Just players going through the motions in a vacuum. The fans not only create the atmosphere, they create tension, adrenaline. We’re not talking a run of the mill golf tournament, but the greatest team match in golf. No way can it be played without spectators. Yes, it can get ugly as it did at Brookline, Hazeltine. There was booing in Paris two years ago. However, that’s only because of a small minority of morons who just don’t get it. The vast majority do, which is why it’s only right and proper to delay until 2021.

Why playing the match without fans was even considered is beyond me.

Mind you, the decision won’t help the European Tour in its relationship with TV networks, especially Sky Sports. Hard to honour a lucrative TV contract when very little golf is being played and the biggest tournament of the year isn’t part of the package. And hard for said network to sell subscriptions. Sky uses the Ryder Cup to lure subscribers. That’s why it starts hyping the match months before it even takes place.

That was the worry with this Ryder Cup: that commercial reasons would prevail. While none of us are naïve enough to think big-time golf isn’t about money, there are times when it has to take a back seat. This is one of those times.

I’m sure this decision was a close call for the PGA of America and the European Tour. Common sense seems to have beaten cash by 1 hole.

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