The powers-that-be will do everything they possibly can to make sure this year’s Ryder Cup goes ahead at Whistling Straits – with or without spectators.
That is the view of former European captain Bernard Gallacher, who compares the situation as similar to that currently facing football.
Gallacher, who led Europe in three matches from 1991 to 1995, believes that the television deals in place for the PGA of America and the European Tour mean there will be great reluctance to postpone the match, scheduled for September 25-27, until 2021.
“From a European Tour point of view, it’s crucial that the Ryder Cup is played this year,” says 71-year-old Gallacher.
“They work so closely with Sky, and contracts are framed around events like the Ryder Cup. Sky won’t wait indefinitely – they will want some live golf.
“It would be a very worrying situation for European golf if it was not played, for the same reasons as there are problems for football and, indeed, all sports.
“Broadcasting deals are so important.
“Part of the package of a Ryder Cup is the atmosphere. We’ve seen the fans be the 13th man in Paris in 2018, and at Hazeltine before that.
“But if TV are happy to go ahead behind closed doors – and the players are convinced it’s for the greater good of the sport – the authorities would want it to go on.
“The two captains – Padraig Harrington and the USA’s Steve Stricker – know the business of the Ryder Cup, and they will want to play it this year.
“The other consideration, however, is that if there is a delay, that could help Italy.
“They are due to stage the match in 2022, and golf has probably been the last thing on their minds in recent weeks with the crisis they have been in.
“It could help give them a bit of breathing space to stage the match successfully in Rome in 2023.”
In normal circumstances, fans would have been looking forward to the final round of The Masters this evening, but coronavirus has decimated the golfing calendar.
The R&A cancelled this year’s Open Championship – scheduled for Royal St George’s – for the first time since the Second World War, having been unable to find a suitable alternative date for the tournament.
But the other three Majors will go ahead, albeit in different circumstances.
The US PGA has been moved back from May to August, the US Open will be played in September and The Masters has been pushed back as far as November.
The Ryder Cup will be part of that hectic period, staged the week after the US Open, and with the Fed-Ex Cup play-offs not long before that.
There will not be time for a huge build-up as in previous years and, as it stands, there are just eight qualifying events left before Harrington would have to pick his team.
Of the Majors, only the US PGA would count towards selection for the European side, but Gallacher insists nothing can be done in such exceptional circumstances.
“The qualifying process is not ideal, but there are no alternatives,” admits the winning captain from the 1995 match at Oak Hill.
“But there are always one or two players upset before every Ryder Cup, so there would be nothing new there!
“I don’t think the players would be too worried about it coming the week after a US Open.
“They would embrace it.
“With four players sitting out every series of fourball and foursomes matches, the captains could easily rotate.
“The Ryder Cup would be a great way to promote the sport after the darkness that everyone has been living through.
“The players would be putting on a show.
“Moving the Masters to November is a surprise. But the weather at Augusta then will still be OK and the field is small, so there’s not an issue with the daylight.
“I don’t think the schedule is too busy. After months of no golf, players and fans will be looking forward to a bonanza three or four months.
“It would be fingers crossed that people could travel safely to events. But we just don’t know as we’re in uncharted waters.
“It’s all down to governments and medical authorities for this to take place.
“But let’s be honest. The Ryder Cup and the Majors are incidental compared to the financial hardship and deaths that are happening all around the world.”
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