Confirmation that this year's scheduled Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin is being being postponed until September 2021 has been hailed as the "right call" by organisers.
After looming for weeks, the official decision about the biennial event was finally delivered today in a joint announcement by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe.
It has been delayed by 12 months on "guidance from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention", and in conjunction with the state of Wisconsin and Sheboygan County, with the "health and well-being of all involved as the top priority".
In the end, it was deemed that staging event without spectators was "not a realistic option" while even a limited attendance at the Sheboygan venue would have "diluted the magic of this great occasion".
The match, which is set to see Europe defend the trophy, with the event thereafter moving back to odd years, as was the case until the 2001 clash at The Belfry switched to 2002 due to the 9/11 tragedy.
On this side of the Atlantic, that means the match scheduled for Italy in 2022 will now be played in 2023 and the 2026 clash at Adare Manor in Ireland moving to 2027.
To accommodate next year's event, which will now be played in the same month as the Solheim Cup in Ohio, the Presidents Cup, which sees the US take on an International side, has been moved back to 2022 at Quail Hollow in North Carolina.
“Unlike other major sporting events that are played in existing stadiums, we had to make a decision now about building facilities to host the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits,” said PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh.
“It became clear that as of today, our medical experts and the public authorities in Wisconsin could not give us certainty that conducting an event responsibly with thousands of spectators in September would be possible. Given that uncertainty, we knew rescheduling was the right call.
“We are grateful to Commissioner Jay Monahan and our partners at the PGA Tour for their flexibility and generosity in the complex task of shifting the global golf calendar.
“As disappointing as this is, our mandate to do all we can to safeguard public health is what matters most. The spectators who support both the US and European sides are what make the Ryder Cup such a unique and compelling event and playing without them was not a realistic option.
“We stand united with our partners from Ryder Cup Europe, the NBC Sports Group, Sky and our other broadcast partners around the world. We look forward to delivering the Ryder Cup’s renowned pageantry, emotion and competitive drama to a global audience in 2021.”
Guy Kinnings, Europe’s Ryder Cup director, said: “The Ryder Cup is rightly celebrated as one of the world’s greatest sporting occasions, made special and totally unique in our sport by the fervent atmosphere created by the passionate spectators of both sides.
“While that point is significant, it is not as important as the health of the spectators which, in these difficult times, is always the main consideration. We considered all options including playing with a limited attendance, but all our stakeholders agreed this would dilute the magic of this great occasion.
“We therefore stand beside our partners at the PGA of America in the decision to postpone the Ryder Cup for a year and join with them in extending our thanks to the PGA Tour for their willingness to help by moving the date of the Presidents Cup.
“We also thank NBC, Sky and our many broadcast partners around the globe, in addition to the worldwide partners of this great event, whose support and commitment are second to none.”
The decision, which opens up a slot on the European Tour schedule in the week before the Dunhill Links Championship is set to take place and could be filled by the Irish Open, was given the thumbs up by US captain Steve Stricker and European counterpart Padraig Harrington
"While it is disappointing that the Ryder Cup won't be played this year, the decision to reschedule is the right thing to do under the circumstances," said Stricker, who is set to lead the US in his home state.
"At the end of the day, we want to stage a Ryder Cup that will rival all other Ryder Cups in my home state of Wisconsin, and now we have the opportunity to showcase the event as it was meant to be seen."
Harrington had said earlier in the year that the event might have to "take one for the team" by playing it without fans, but he is also happy with the decision.
“Rescheduling the Ryder Cup was never going to be an easy decision given the many factors to take into consideration," said the Irishman. "But I believe it is the right assessment given the unprecedented circumstances we are facing at this time.
“When you think of the Ryder Cup, you think of the distinctive atmosphere generated by the spectators, such as around the first tee at Le Golf National two years ago. If that cannot be responsibly recreated at Whistling Straits in September, then it is correct that we all wait until it can be.
“I know, right now, that September 2021 feels like a long time away. But it will come around quickly and I guarantee that the European players and I will be ready when it does.”
The qualification process for the European team has been frozen until the beginning of the new year. As originally planned, Harrington's side will consist of eight automatic qualifiers from two separate points lists and three captain's picks.
The Junior Ryder Cup, which is set to see Paul Lawrie captain the European team, has also been pushed back to next year. It will now take place Blue Mound Golf & Country Club in Wisconsin on 21-22 September 2020.
Other major sporting events hit this year include the Olympics in Japan and The Open at Royal St George's, both of which had already been pushed back to 2021.
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