While the world fights the deadly Coronavirus, the golf world will never forget the reasons why the Ryder Cup has for nearly two decades been held on an ‘even-numbered’ year.
Not only is the immediate integrity of the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai now in doubt but so too is the qualifying and staging of the 2020 Ryder Cup.
The longer the delay in returning to full competition, the shorter the process both European Ryder Cup Captain, Padraig Harrington and his USA rival Steve Stricker have to assemble a team.
Questions are not only being raised whether the Masters will or should go ahead but whether or not the other three majors – the PGA Championship, US Open and The Open – will also get to a first tee.
There’s also the Summer Olympics, in the very week following the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s, also counting towards Whistling Straits selection.
Should the Coronavirus pandemic continue through the Majors and the Games of the 32nd Olympiad and an ‘all clear’ flag be raised soon after, then it will leave under two months of official qualifying.
Of course, the European Tour and the PGA of America could decide, if we were to lose just two of the four majors, to forgo qualifying and just each captain pick their 12 best players.
If this were to be the scenario, then you’d lose a dozen PGA Tour events while the European Tour would lose eight.
And if competition on both sides of ‘The Pond’ does not return for an ‘X’ number of months, could we see the 2020 Ryder Cup postponed to 2021 when both Tours get back to a level-playing field free of any Coronavirus fears.
It’s all hypothetical but they’re now sure to be the questions asked when Harrington next meets with the Ryder Cup Committee.
Harrington is lucky to be back home in Ireland given a US decision to now cancel flights to and from the UK and Ireland from midnight Monday (March 16) US time.
The Dubliner was due to tee-up in this week’s Valspar Championship and then next week be present at Tour HQ at Wentworth before heading back to the US to compete in the April 2nd starting Valero Texas Open.
“This will now need to be discussed,” said Harrington speaking to Sunday’s Irish Independent.
“There is a problem, but at the moment, I honestly don’t know what can be done but playing opportunities is clearly an issue.
“My assumption is that Ryder Cup officials will be doing their homework, so as to inform me as to what’s possible within the regulations. We must establish what our options are and what action may be appropriate.
“If it happens, it happens. Given that it’s September, I would be more worried if we were talking about early summer, like May or June. That seems to be more dangerous time when the virus is supposed to peak. Things may be different towards the end of the summer but being Ryder Cup captain doesn’t qualify me to have an official position on this.
“For the moment, I am in the dark as to the arrangements.”
One thing that would seem certain amid all the questions the Coronavirus crisis is generating in the world of golf is that surely a Ryder Cup cannot be held behind closed doors.
We recall here the tragic events of 19-years ago and why the Ryder Cup is now held every ‘even’ year, with Harrington mooting that if the 2020 Ryder Cup is severely compromised, then we could be back to an ‘odd’ year hosting.
“I don’t think you could play the Ryder Cup behind closed doors,” he said.
“As a team event between Europe and the US, the participation of partisan galleries is very much a part of the occasion. If necessary, it could be delayed or held over to next year, like what happened in 2001.”
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