RORY McIlroy is the latest European to weigh in on the possibility of the Ryder Cup being played in September without spectators.
“A Ryder Cup without fans is not a Ryder Cup,” the world’s top-ranked player said during an Instagram Live with TaylorMade on Tuesday.
McIlroy’s comments came on the heels of PGA of America chief executive Seth Waugh saying on Monday that organizers are exploring everything for the event scheduled for Sept. 25-27 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The PGA Tour plans to return to competition in June, with at least the first four events being held without fans.
But the passionate — and hostile — fan environment is unique to the Ryder Cup, with European captain Padraig Harrington previously saying that it’s “common sense” to postpone the event rather than contest it without fans.
McIlroy said Tuesday, “I would much rather they delay it until 2021 than play it at Whistling Straits without fans. And that’s from a European going to America, knowing that I’m going to get abuse!
“Obviously it would be better for the Europeans to play without fans because we wouldn’t have to deal with some of the stuff that you have to put up with, but at the same time, it’s 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 Ryder Cup or playing it without fans, I would say just delay it a year and play it in 2021.”
The coronavirus pandemic has already wreaked havoc on the golf calendar. Three majors were postponed, and The Open Championship was canceled altogether. The FedEx Cup playoffs were also pushed back, with the Masters now part of the 2020-21 PGA Tour season.
McIlroy also said that pushing the Ryder Cup back a year could benefit Italy, another country hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Italy is slated to host the Ryder Cup in 2022.
“If they do delay it until 2021, the next Ryder Cup’s in Italy,” McIlroy said. “And we know how badly Italy was affected by coronavirus, so it gives them an extra year to prepare for the Ryder Cup in 2023.”
Defending champion Europe defeated the United States 17 1/2 to 10 1/2 at the 2018 Ryder Cup held outside of Paris.