Is this year's Ryder Cup going ahead as planned?

Talk of 50 per cent fan capacity at Whistling Straits

US captain Steve Stricker is still hopeful the 43rd Ryder Cup can go ahead as planned in his home state of Wisconsin in September. Picture: Getty Images
US captain Steve Stricker is still hopeful the 43rd Ryder Cup can go ahead as planned in his home state of Wisconsin in September. Picture: Getty Images

Despite a series of strong statements, including the threat of a player boycott and the possibility of it being played at 50 per cent fan capacity, this year's Ryder Cup remains up in the air.

It had seemed that a big hint about it going ahead as planned at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in September had been dropped by US captain Steve Stricker announcing a major change to his selection process to include six picks instead of four..

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However, he later declared it was "way above my pay grade" to determine if that should be an encouragement for fans about the biennial match going ahead in his native Wisconsin.

"There's just so many things that we can't answer right now, it's hard to say whether we're going to play the Ryder Cup or not," said Stricker.

It was interesting, though, to hear him talk about the possibility of the clash taking place with a reduced capacity as opposed to no fans at all due to Covid-19 restrictions.

"I've been talking to some of the players, and I think a 50 per cent capacity would be good for everybody," he added. "But is social distancing still going to be hard with 25,000 people compared to 50,000 people there?

"The Ryder Cup is unique in a way that there's four groups out there on Friday and Saturday, so 25,000 people within four groups, I don't know if you can actually stay away from people at that point.

"But I think the players are a little bit more excited and a little keen to the idea of 50 per cent capacity of fans."

One thing for sure is that two of the top players in the world, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy, are not keen at all on the possibility of it being played without any fans.

"The fans make that event," said world No 3 Koepka. "The fans make that special. If we're not playing in front of fans, it's just like us playing a game in Florida. You've got myself, Rory , DJ [Dustin Johnson], you've got all these guys that are living in Jupiter.

"It would be just like a normal game that goes on in Jupiter. And there's no fist pumping there, there's no excitement. The fans create the excitement for the Ryder Cup.

"Yeah, we're excited to play, but you see the emotion. If there's no fans out there you're not going to see guys fist pumping and that passion behind it.

"Yes, I love to play for my country, I love to do all these things, but it's important to have the fans there. We feed off it. The fans get louder or they'll boo you depending on what you're doing, but that's the beauty of it.

"The Ryder Cup is a true sporting event. It's different than any other golf tournament we play. It's a true sporting event, and I think if we can have fans, that's perfect. I just don't want to play it without fans."

Asked if he could see someone not playing as a protest if it did go ahead without spectators, Koepka replied: “Yeah”. Could it be him? “Possibly,” he added.

Also speaking as he prepared for this week's Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas, world No 1 McIlroy reiterated that he would prefer the Ryder Cup to be postponed until 2021 than played without fans.

On being told about Koepka talking about a possible player boycott, he said: “I am pretty sure they won’t carry on without spectators, so I don’t think I will be put in a position to make that choice.

"I think there's enough people within the game that don't want the Ryder Cup to happen without fans, that's why I sort of have this conviction that it wouldn't happen if fans wouldn't be allowed.

"So that's why it's either going to be played this year with fans, if we can do that, or going to have to figure out kicking it down the road to a later date."

The 43rd Ryder Cup is scheduled to be held on 25-27 September. It is believed that an announcement is due to be made by the PGA of America and European Tour sometime this month.

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