Martin Dempster: Why it’s right to delay Ryder Cup

No fans would have made tournament a turn-off

Fans hit fever pitch on the first tee at Hazeltine in 2016.
Fans hit fever pitch on the first tee at Hazeltine in 2016.

Phew. One word that probably sums up how most people will be feeling about the decision to push back the 43rd Ryder Cup to September 2021.

Yes, of course, it will leave a huge void in the sporting calendar later in the year, as will be the case next week with no Open Championship taking place at Royal St George’s in Kent.

But a Ryder Cup with either no fans at all or a limited attendance at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin? No thank you. And it would be the same no matter where it was taking place.

I still remember the chill running down the back of my neck standing close to the first tee at my first Ryder Cup, the 2002 match at The Belfry.

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There is nothing like it in golf and the event has grown arms and legs since then, with huge grandstands now wrapping around that first- tee arena.

No wonder the likes of Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka said they weren’t really interested in playing in a spectator-free Ryder Cup and good on them for saying so.

It’s become a tough year on the sporting front as event after event is affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and you sort of see why some thought it might give people a bit of a lift if the Ryder Cup went ahead without fans.

With no atmosphere at all, though, it would have been a turn-off as opposed to its normal gripping viewing, so this decision should bring relief all round.

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Yes, it could signal tough times for the European Tour as the 2022 and 2024 matches are now pushed back, but here’s hoping chief executive Keith Pelley and his team can rise to the challenge.

Above any other event in golf, the Ryder Cup is loved by non-golfers, whether there in the flesh or watching on TV. They’ve become hooked by some terrific tussles over the years.

It just wouldn’t have been right for them and golf nuts to be subjected to a Ryder Cup with an asterisk beside it and the same goes for the two captains, Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington.

Let’s do it for real next September.

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