FORMER world No. 1 Lee Westwood joined the chorus of players questioning whether the Ryder Cup should be played in September if fans will not be permitted on the course.
“The Ryder Cup, the crowds make it, really,” Westwood told talkSPORT, per Sky Sports. “It’s an incredible atmosphere and they (the crowds) make the atmosphere, that’s what separates it from everything else.
“The fans have chosen one side or the other rather than cheering for good shots or the players. It’s a tough one to visualize, someone holing the winning putt and turning to an empty stand with their arms in the air. If there’s one sporting event that needs the fans, it’s the Ryder Cup.”
While European team captain Padraig Harrington said the event might have to “take one of the team” and be played without fans this year, current No. 1 Rory McIlroy said last month that a Ryder Cup without fans is “not a Ryder Cup.”
That sentiment was echoed by second-ranked Jon Rahm.
Last week, Rahm said that the event isn’t “worth playing” without fans.
The Ryder Cup is scheduled to be played at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin from Sept. 25-27.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh said this year’s Ryder Cup could take place without fans. Harrington said that while playing without fans might not be in the best interest of the event, it might serve the greater good of the sport.
“You don’t just get golf fans watching the Ryder Cup, you get actual sports fans and it captures everybody’s imagination,” Westwood said. “At some point we’re going to have to come out of this and give people something to watch and entertain people. Ryder Cup is just another one of those things.
“We’re just on a watch and wait style of thing with the Ryder Cup. September is still quite a long way away so we can just bide our time before we can make a decision, and there’s a lot of things to take into account. I’m glad it’s not me who has to make that decision!”
Three of the four annual majors have been rescheduled and The Open Championship was canceled. The current plan calls for the PGA Tour to resume in mid-June, with at least the first four events being contested without fans.
“If those PGA Tour events go well, behind closed doors, then we’re far more likely to see a Ryder Cup as normal,” Harrington said.
“It massively increases the odds of being with fans because by September we may have moved on. I assume there’s no chance of a vaccine (by September) so we’re looking at how well contained it is by then and how treatable it is.”
Rahm has heard that discussion, but told Sky Sports that, “for me, A Ryder Cup without the spectators is just not a Ryder Cup.”
If it was up to me, and I hope I’m not alone in this, I think they should just delay it and be able to get it done in 2021 with spectators.”