Barring an unexpected change of heart, the announcement will come very soon that the 2020 Ryder Cup is being postponed.
It won’t be a shock, just another disappointment in a year full of them.
No construction has begun for a Ryder Cup build-out at Whistling Straits and, while there have been unconfirmed comments and reports that the event will be pushed back a year, there has been no confirmation from the PGA of America.
Perhaps more importantly, there has been no strong denial of those reports, just a fallback statement saying the Ryder Cup is still scheduled for late September on the banks of Lake Michigan. Absent a strongly worded refute of the reports, the likely eventual outcome has come more into focus.
The official notice will land soon, with a sigh.
It will be the right move even if this is one of those times when doing the right thing leaves an empty feeling.
Playing the Ryder Cup without fans – perhaps the only real option to not playing it at all this year – would be like Springsteen reading the lyrics, not singing them. Special, yes, but not the same.
The Ryder Cup is as precious as it is passionate, and when it’s played it should be played in all of its face-painted, full-throated, hand-trembling glory. It needs and deserves a soundtrack that’s as wide open as a garage band, underpinning the three most intense days in golf.
Could the Ryder Cup be played in front of smaller galleries in Wisconsin, perhaps 10,000 fans a day? Maybe it could. But the difference would be noticeable, particularly the likely absence of European fans who wouldn’t or couldn’t make the trip. Who would sing, “Ole, ole, ole?”
“It would be disappointing, honestly,” Patrick Reed said last week when asked about the possibility of a postponement. “You always look forward to being able to play and represent your country, especially in the Ryder Cup.
“It's just kind of one of those things that with the unfortunate times and the scary times we’re going through right now that the PGA and both teams, they need to make the best decision, not just what’s best for the people and the players but also the best thing for the history of the tournament. And trying to play that event with no fans, I would prefer them to push it back to where we can have fans than to go out and play without fans.”
Nothing is normal at the moment and it’s going to be months, if we’re lucky, before things are close to being back the way they were. There are far more important matters than postponing a biennial golf competition but in the close circle of golf, delaying the Ryder Cup – like losing the Open Championship this summer – is disheartening.
The Ryder Cup isn’t going away. It’s just being pushed back until early next fall when, virus permitting, all of those memories and all of those emotions get stirred together again in a big pot of Whistling Straits stew. If getting it right means waiting 12 months, then it’s the right call.
We should be accustomed to adjustments by now.
Everything has been moved or cancelled or postponed, it seems. The fact that competitive golf has returned, at least on the PGA and Korn Ferry tours, is reassuring but has come with a calculated cost. Tournaments are played on otherwise empty courses with testing areas nearby. The withdrawal list has become news.
Postponing the Ryder Cup would be bigger than simply moving it back by 12 months. It’s another wave in the churning waters of professional golf.
The European Tour already is dealing with serious financial issues and being forced to wait until 2023 for matches in Rome and the next windfall doesn’t help.
The decision, it’s safe to say, will not be made unilaterally by the PGA of America. Through this pandemic, the game’s organizing bodies have worked together to re-create a schedule that works for everyone.
It’s largely why the U.S. Open is still scheduled for Winged Foot in September rather than at Riviera Country Club in December. Playing the U.S. Open that late in the year would have been a potentially devastating blow to the European Tour which, through a push from the PGA Tour, helped convince the USGA to stay in the New York area in early fall.
By moving the Ryder Cup to next year, it means the Presidents Cup – scheduled to be played at North Carolina’s Quail Hollow Club in 2021 – almost certainly will be moved back to 2022. The possibility of playing both Cups in the same year reportedly was considered but that’s not in the best interest of either. A Ryder Cup postponement would place it in the same year with the Solheim Cup, however. And then there are the Olympic Games, which have been rescheduled for next summer.
More than a year out, the 2021 Presidents Cup already has sold in excess of $10 million in corporate hospitality. The PGA Tour probably wants some form of financial consideration for rescheduling an event that’s a huge moneymaker, especially considering the money the tour has spent supporting tournaments in this environment.
There also is a financial impact on the European Tour, which bankrolls a significant portion of its operation from the money it makes by hosting the Ryder Cup every four years. The European Tour already is dealing with serious financial issues and being forced to wait until 2023 for matches in Rome and the next windfall doesn’t help.
It could hasten an agreement or collaboration of some sort between the European Tour and the PGA Tour, which has been under discussion for a while now. Day-to-day operations during the pandemic are the priority at the moment, but the long-term implications of a postponement are potentially significant.
Already, there have been adjustments to the team selection process due to the truncated schedule and the qualifying process. Steve Stricker has six captain’s picks for the U.S. side, an acknowledgement that this Ryder Cup would be different.
For Stricker and European captain Pádraig Harrington, forcing a Ryder Cup this year would deny them the full experience of a career-crowning appointment. Part of the fun of the Ryder Cup, or any other big event, is the anticipation. That’s gone missing this year amid the ongoing uncertainty.
Think about what the past two Ryder Cups have given us: four years ago, it was the Rory McIlroy-Patrick Reed match and two years ago it was the “Moliwood” pairing in Paris. Those are just two instances from two matches in what is the most compelling event in the game.
Part of what makes the Ryder Cup special is it doesn’t happen every year. It needs to be all or nothing.
Waiting one more year will be the right decision.