Colin Montgomerie: Postpone Ryder Cup rather than play behind closed doors

It’s not the Ryder Cup without fans, says former Europe captain

Colin Montgomerie believes this year’s Ryder Cup, scheduled for September at Whistling Straits, should be postponed if the only option for organisers is to stage it without fans at the Wisconsin venue.

The eight-time Ryder Cup player and winning European captain at Celtic
Manor in 2010 says he would rather see the biennial contest pushed back 12 months than have it taking place behind closed doors on the shores of Lake Michigan.

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The 43rd staging, which is set to see Europe defend the trophy, has retained its original slot on a revised schedule drawn up by the governing bodies and main tours following the postponement or cancellation of numerous events due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Tickets sold out within hours of going on sale in October and fans will no doubt have been encouraged to hear that courses
in Wisconsin are being allowed to reopen this week, but it has emerged that a spectator-free event is being explored.

PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh said: “We have begun to talk about whether you could create some virtual fan experience, and we are going to try to be as creative as we can.

“It’s still to be determined whether you could hold it without fans or not,” Waugh told WFAN Sports Radio.

Padraig Harrington, the European captain, has already said he wouldn’t want to see a Ryder Cup without fans and Montgomerie, who revelled in the role as Europe’s talisman in the event, echoed that view in 
an exclusive interview with The Scotsman.

“No,” he replied emphatically to talk about a spectator-less contest on 25-27 September. “If that’s the case, you do what they did in 2001 [when the match was cancelled in the wake of 9/11] and delay it a year. The Ryder Cup without fans is not the Ryder Cup, no, no, no! That’s just pushing it through for no particular reason. Delay it a year.

“I can see the odd tournament going ahead without fans or trying to anyway. But the Ryder Cup? No. You need fans at the Ryder Cup. They actually make the event, to be honest, they do, Without the fans, it’s just another game of golf.

“The fans are the 13th man and I am sure [US captain and Wisconsinite] Steve Stricker would want as many fans on that course as possible, as we would if it was being played in Europe. It’s both ways and the Ryder Cup without fans doesn’t work for me. If that’s the only option they have and the only date, I think you have to 
delay it.”

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With both the European Tour and PGA Tour shut down due to the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus, the qualifying race for the two teams is currently on hold. The PGA Tour is planning to restart in the middle of June, but the European Tour schedule has been wiped out until the end of July.

Montgomerie, who had to deal with a curve ball when bad weather forced the format to be tweaked in Wales ten years ago, believes Harrington and Steve Stricker will have to make 12 picks on this occasion if the match is indeed played in September.

“I think that’s probably one of the only ways to do this now due to what is going to be a very reduced schedule,” said the eight-time European No 1. “Say the European Tour comes back at the end of July or beginning or August, you are only going to have six events before the Ryder Cup.

“What I would suggest is that you take the top 12 off the world ranking at a certain date in America and take the top 12 off the world ranking at a certain date in Europe and you have a game. And nobody can complain. If you are 13th in the world rankings on either of those lists, then sorry you’ve missed out.

“If you take the top 12 after the US Open [due to be held the week before the Ryder Cup], do it then, yeah. The top ten will know they are in already, probably, and, if you have a good US Open, you might work your way into the team. If you don’t, you won’t make the team.

“I think that’s as fair as it goes this time. Forget the four off the world list, four off the European list and four picks. No, take the 12 off the world rankings and get on with it.”

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