World number one Rory McIlroy on Tuesday added his voice to the chorus of players opposed to the idea of playing this year’s Ryder Cup without spectators.
With the global golf season in chaos due to the coronavirus pandemic, the game’s administrators are running through a range of possible scenarios as they attempt to plot a path back to competition.
For organizers of the Ryder Cup, which is due to take place at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin from September 25-27, that has included studying whether the tournament could be played without fans.
PGA chief executive Seth Waugh revealed earlier this week that officials had looked at the possibility of creating a “virtual fan experience” for the fiercely competitive team clash between Europe and the United States.
Waugh however acknowledged that a Ryder Cup without spectators was “hard to imagine,” noting they were an integral part of the raucous and often febrile golfing spectacle.
McIlroy, speaking during an Instagram live event for sponsors TaylorMade, said he would rather see this year’s event delayed for a year than played before empty galleries.
“I have a pretty strong view on this. I get the financial implications for everyone involved — there’s a lot that goes into putting on the Ryder Cup that people don’t probably know or appreciate – but having a Ryder Cup without fans is not a Ryder Cup,” McIlroy said.
“For me I would much rather they delay it until 2021 than play it at Whistling Straits without fans. And that’s from a European going to America, knowing that I’m going to get abuse!
“Obviously it would be better for Europeans to play without fans because we wouldn’t have to deal with some of the stuff that you have to put up with — but at the same time it’s not a Ryder Cup.
“It wouldn’t be a great spectacle, there’d be no atmosphere, so if it came to whether they had to choose between not playing the Ryder Cup or playing it without fans, I would say just delay it for a year and play it in 2021.”
McIlroy added that a year’s delay would also work in favor of 2022 Ryder Cup hosts Italy, one of the worst affected countries in the coronavirus outbreak.
“If they do delay it until 2021, the next Ryder Cup is supposed to be in Italy, and we know how badly affected Italy was by coronavirus, so it gives that country an extra year to prepare for the Ryder Cup in 2023 instead of 2022,” McIlroy said.
“This is only one opinion but if we have to play the Ryder Cup behind closed doors this year, I’d rather just delay it.”