The Covid-19 pandemic has affected virtually every tournament, league, and sport in one way or another. And golf’s Ryder Cup is no exception. The return of golf’s greatest spectacle was meant to take place the final weekend of September.
It would have been a weekend where individual glory gave way to team spirit and success. Where concern over prize money or world ranking is forgone for the sheer pride of representing your country or continent. The 43rd Ryder Cup was going to be a battle to the end between Team USA and Team Europe.
But alas, it was not to be. A lot of people were hoping that, with just a few small tweaks to the format, the Ryder Cup would still go ahead. "Things started coming to a head in March when they started closing down the tours," Team Europe's captain, Padraig Harrington, told CNN's Living Golf.
"At that stage we started making all sorts of alternative options, what we'd do with picking the team, how we get in the right amount of play, and just making all different scenarios for selection, qualification, picks, timings, all that."
But early optimism over fans returning to the grandstands faded as the pandemic started to spread. In July, the decision was announced that Whistling Straits -- the Wisconsin course hosting the event -- would have to wait another year, as the Ryder Cup was postponed until September 2021.
The Ryder Cup needs fans
With the PGA Tour resuming in June, and the European Tour following suit in July, it was clear that golf could still go ahead in pandemic conditions. But for the Ryder Cup, it wasn't as simple as just playing behind closed doors.
The organizers and players knew this was a tournament that needed fans. In July, European Tour CEO Keith Pelley told CNN: "If you couldn't guarantee 15 or 20,000 fans, then the Ryder Cup is not the Ryder Cup. It is tribal in nature.
And that first tee experience is the best experience in golf undeniably. If you couldn't have that, would that be detrimental to the Ryder Cup? I personally felt it would." "I remember saying to Rory [McIlory], 'Who are you going to raise your hands to? Patrick Reed's caddy? Who's Patrick going to shush? The marshal?' That's the magic of the Ryder Cup," said Pelley.
While the 12-month grace period can't guarantee that fans will be able to attend the Ryder Cup tournament at Whistling Straits next year, it at least facilitates the possibility -- and as all the organizers agree, a Ryder Cup is no Ryder Cup without fans.