Rory McIlroy says players shouldn't be forced to play in a Ryder Cup behind closed doors and fears that a spectator-free event could be damaging for the biennial contest's worldwide popularity.
Speaking in the latest McKellar Golf Podcast, the world No 1 delivered a massive blow to organisers of September's scheduled event at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin by disagreeing with
European captain Padraig Harrington that players might be required to "take one for the team" by playing the match without any fans.
"The American players get a chunk of money they can donate to charity," said McIlroy. "But to ask players to go there out of their own good, I think it would asking a bit too much of them. I would say the majority of players wouldn't want to play it that way and would rather wait a year.
"There is no Ryder Cup without players at the end of the day. I don't ever envisage a time where the players will be paid for the Ryder Cup. We obviously want to be part of the Ryder Cup team, but I think we'd all much rather play it in front of fans and, if we have to wait a year for that to happen, that's what should happen."
Other top players, including Brooks Kopeka, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari and Jon Rahm, have also come out in recent weeks and said they would rather see the event pushed back 12 months than played without any fans.
"I definitely don't think the Ryder Cup would be the same if we were to play it behind closed doors," added McIlroy. "There wouldn't be any atmosphere coming through the TV if people were to watch it at home.
"You wouldn't get the reactions you see in Ryder Cups that you don't see anywhere else. What happened between me and Patrick Reed in 2016, that would never happen if it was played behind closed doors.
"I feel like every Ryder Cup has got bigger and better over the last few years, and I think it would halt any momentum the Ryder Cup has nowadays.
"The fact it is in the top three or four sporting events in the world, I don't see any reason if they couldn't play it with any fans, just postpone it until 2021 and play it where it is safe for fans to be there. And have it be a celebration of golf again. I just can't see it being played with no fans. It just would take everything away."
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