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  • Alistair Tait

Don’t pull the plug on the Ryder Cup

Holding a Ryder Cup without fans would be like Butch Cassidy without the Sundance Kid. It just wouldn’t be the same.

Which is why organisers shouldn’t even think about staging this year’s match unless fans can attend.

Thankfully, European captain Padraig Harrington agrees.

PGA of America chief executive Seth Waugh has admitted there's a possibility of staging the Ryder Cup without fans.

“We have begun to talk about whether you could create some virtual fan experience, and we are going to try to be as creative as we can,” Waugh told WFAN Sports Radio. “It’s [still] to be determined, frankly, whether you could hold it without fans or not.”

Please, Seth, say it ain’t so.

We’re not talking ordinary European or PGA Tour events here: we’re talking arguably golf’s greatest spectacle

Situations where there are no fans watching groups is commonplace at many European Tour events in countries where golf isn’t hugely popular. We’ve all turned on our televisions to watch the action and wondered: where is everyone?

Many times I’ve walked with Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods or a similar marquee player only to look over at a three ball on another fairway with a gallery that includes the proverbial one man and his dog. I’ve often followed friends playing in European Tour events and been the only person watching the action.

Regular golf events without fans is no big deal. As for the majors, it’s hard to imagine the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championship going ahead without spectators. Yes, it is an option, but they'll be sterile affairs. Imagine the Masters without the roars emanating from Amen Corner? It’s unthinkable.

A Ryder Cup without fans is even more unthinkable. Almost unbelievable. That’s Harrington’s take:

“Nobody wants to see the Ryder Cup played without the fans being there," Harrington recently told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“There’s no doubt that it makes the tournament so much better. I think the common consensus now is the Ryder Cup will not be played unless the fans are there.
“Non-golfers and golfers around the world watch the Ryder Cup because of the tension that’s created by the spectators.”

Thank goodness for Padraig Harrington.

It’s actually easier to watch the Ryder Cup on television than it is live. It’s arguably the worst golf tournament to watch live because there are so few golfers on the course at any one time. For most ordinary golf fans ­ – not people like me with inside the ropes armbands – it can be a costly ticket to watch mere glimpses of action.

However, without the fans and the atmosphere they bring it would be like watching paint dry. You only had to be on the first tee at Le Golf National two years ago and hear the thunderclap, or rival chants of Ole, Ole, Ole and USA, USA, USA to feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Remember “There’s only two Molinaris” in the rain at Celtic Manor? Brilliant.

I sat beside Waugh near the 6th green during the 2018 Ryder Cup two years ago. We’ve been friends for over 20 years, since we played together in the 72 Club at Littlestone. (We were scheduled to do so again next Monday, albeit not together.) Our chat only lasted about 20 minutes since he had more important people to speak to, but we both agreed the atmosphere was fantastic.

So please, Seth, only hold the Ryder Cup if fans can attend. Don’t pull the plug on Whistling Straits and deny golf’s greatest team competition the electricity it thrives on.

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