The four-man charity skins competition, involving Rory, DJ, Rickie and Wolffman at Seminole last week was putrid apart from the novelty of seeing the golfers playing in shorts and missing their caddies more than they should have. All it did was confirm for me that a Ryder Cup without fans would be a disaster. It could be so bad that it might even signal the beginning of the end of the Ryder Cup, which might never recover sufficiently to attain the peak it is at right now.
Taking one for the team, as Captain Padraig Harrington has suggested, would be a big mistake with the potential to become the biggest own goal in European Tour history. Let’s not kid ourselves. The Ryder Cup does not have the same cache in America. The PGA Tour may even (secretly) be happy to see the back of it so they can concentrate fully on their ‘silly-season’ FedEx Cup.
To hold the Ryder Cup without the noise and atmosphere created by biased, boisterous, chauvinistic fans would be a fiasco. Not least because the single reason for doing so is money and nothing else but money. Fans don’t care a fig about the money. They just want to roar and shout for their team and in doing so to feel electrified and happy.
At this stage, it’s unavoidable that playing at Whistling Straits would be a mess. It is just a case of how much of a mess. How can the teams be selected fairly, for starters? The Captains picking all 12-players, possibly? How many European players would be willing to travel to the USA; self-isolate for two weeks and then, do the same on returning home in order to play in a competition that has no prize purse?
Very few and there aren’t enough Europeans based in the USA to make a viable team capable of taking on the USA. For the long term future of the Ryder Cup, the best course of action is to forget about it until 2022 (in Italy). 2021 is already taken up with the Olympics, President’s Cup and Solheim Cup, you might even say the Walker Cup too. There isn’t room for another international team competition.
World No 1, Rory McIlroy has spoken out against playing behind closed doors and so have Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari. Any sport, without fans, isn’t much of a spectacle. The Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke, normally a noisy, atmospheric derby was tough viewing last weekend. The thud of the ball echoing around an empty stadium, curses and swears emanating from the rival benches and goals greeted in silence. No fun at all. Just going through the motions because they had to.
As Ewan Murray, the SKY GOLF broadcaster has said: “To play the Ryder Cup without fans would be close to criminal. To play it with them could be much more serious”.