The 43rd Ryder Cup is set to take place at the Straits course at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wisc., this fall. The event is scheduled to begin on Sept. 25 and will conclude on Sept. 27. Even though the event is still more than four months away, the PGA of America is already planning some major changes to the event.
According to PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh, the organization is considering staging the event without any fans in attendance. The Ryder Cup is one of the most prestigious events in the world, and it is always highly attended. The idea of playing the Ryder Cup without fans seems like a radical idea, but the coronavirus pandemic might force this to occur.
The PGA of America is also working on making some changes to the PGA Championship that is set to take place in August. Harding Park in San Francisco is set to host that event on Aug. 6-9, but that event could also be played without fans. California Governor Gavin Newsom has imposed some of the most strict shelter-in-place guidelines, and he doesn’t think that the state will be ready to host any major sporting events.
The PGA Tour has already announced that their first four events after returning to play will be played without spectators, and there is hope that fans will be back after a month. June 11 is the target return date for the PGA Tour, with the Charles Schwab Challenge set to take place at Colonial. Government and health officials will have to sign off on the plan, but there is hope that this will happen.
European team captain Padraig Harrington has already expressed that he is opposed to playing the Ryder Cup without fans. He argues that fans make the entire event, and it won’t be worth playing on an empty golf course.
Another option would be to cancel the event altogether, and there have been some discussions about that topic over the last few weeks. The PGA of America and other top golf executives believe that the event can still take place, although they will continue to revisit the topic of cancellation.
The European Tour, along with the PGA Tour, depends on the revenue from the Ryder Cup every two years to operate their businesses. The European Tour is also shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, and they have not announced a plan to return to play. Canceling the event would be catastrophic to both organizations at the time when both are already struggling financially.
Not Much Wiggle Room
One option would be moving the event to 2021, but the President’s Cup is set to take place next year. The postponement of the 2020 Olympics to next summer also creates some scheduling concerns. It appears that the event will either take place in September of 2020 or not at all.
One advantage that golf does have over other major sports is that social distancing can be maintained while still hosting an event. The PGA of America announced that even without spectators, there would still be close to 1,500 people on the golf course at any one time. This number includes players and caddies, as well as TV and radio broadcast crew.
In other golf news, the Senior LPGA Championship that was scheduled to take place in July has now been canceled. The event was set to take place from July 30-Aug. 1 in French Lick, Ind. French Lick will get to host the event in 2021, but a new date has not been announced.