08 Apr 2020

#WWGDebate | Should the Ryder Cup go ahead with no fans?

In a recent BBC Radio 5 Live interview the stars of the 2018 Ryder Cup for Team Europe – Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood – both admitted that this year’s Ryder Cup shouldn’t take place behind closed doors.

“The crowds are a huge part of the event so I’m sure the players would agree that it’s better to wait until we can have a proper Ryder Cup,” said Molinari, with Fleetwood adding: “The event cannot really happen without fans. It should be played in front of fans and the crowd because that’s all part of it. I don’t think any major sporting occasion works without fans.”

Golf is unique in that it is one of the few major sports that you can play without having to come into physical contact with anyone and you can maintain social distancing in line with the official guidelines.

FEATURE: Harrington: ‘I’m still preparing every day for the 2020 Ryder Cup’

Therefore, the idea of the event going ahead at Whistling Straits in September is still on the cards – whether there will be fans attending or not.

Worldwide Golf speak to local pros and journalists in the region to find out their thoughts on this intriguing debate.

Jamie McConnell – “The Ryder Cup 100 percent worth having – even without fans.”

“If things stay like they are for a long time and people are stuck at home then it’s definitely worth having the Ryder Cup without fans to give people something to look forward to,” says the Claude Harmon Performance Academy Director. “The event gives them the optimism of sport and brings back some sort of normality into people’s lives. Sport solely for TV purposes is not a bad thing when everyone’s in isolation. I’ve seen the UFC have rented a private island so they can put on a show, but in fairness I will pay to watch that because I’m a sport lover. A lot of people around the world are begging to have some sport on TV even if they can’t attend and I think the Ryder Cup fits into that bracket. It’s 100 percent worth having. It might be a different atmosphere but the guys out there will want to win with or without a crowd.”

Todd Staszko – “The Ryder Cup would unite the nations through this tough time.”

“I think it would be a strange spectacle to have no fans on site and I know the players feed off the passion of the crowd, but even at less well attended events like the WGC-Match Play in Texas, the players still want to beat each other!” adds the Worldwide Golf Senior Editor. “With so much bad news this year and an array of huge events being cancelled, having the Ryder Cup would help lift the spirits of sports fans around the world and bring people together. Without the grandstands it would also highlight the amazing course at Whistling Straits and its stunning vistas out over Lake Michigan. If it can be done safely – why not? It’s only 24 players, vice captains, caddies, referees, a small number of player entourage and a TV crew that will he needed. It could work and I would think that more people would likely tune in than normal if there’s still a dearth of live sports come September.”

Danny Jakubowski – “Fans are too important to the event to not have them.”

“It’s going to be a hard no from me – the event shouldn’t happen without fans,” says the Abu Dhabi Group Director of Instruction. “Part of the event is (a) the crowd participation and ambience that is created on site and (b) the jeering, cheering and general involvement that the players attest is a huge part of the Ryder Cup and an essential element in the teams’ success. From a fans perspective I would still definitely watch on TV – and there’s no doubt it would be a great future Trivia question if it went ahead without fans!”

Mark Lomas – “It wouldn’t be the same without fans.”

“Given the current situation I think golf fans and sports fans would take anything to watch, even if it is just on TV!” says the Dubai-based sports journalist. “But any sport without the fans is not really sport. It’s the fans that inspire players and create the atmosphere. And the Ryder Cup is one of the most riotous occasions in golf in terms of fan atmosphere and engagement with the players. The players love it for a reason and it’s not because it is match play, it’s because of the fans.”

Stuart Fee – “It shouldn’t go ahead without spectators.”

“The Ryder Cup is nothing without the fans,” adds the JA Resort Golf Club teaching pro. “They are the ones that create the atmosphere and makes the players perform to an even higher level. Sport, in general, is for the fans, they create the atmosphere which athletes feed off. Take away the spectators and sport isn’t even half of what it would and should be. The Ryder Cup is possibly the greatest sporting show and the fans play a huge part in it so if spectators aren’t allowed to attend it should be postponed.”

Martin Robinson – “There’s got be a Ryder Cup – with or without fans.”

“My first response is not to have it without spectators as they are such an integral part of the Ryder Cup, and player’s interaction is what makes it,” says the Address Montgomerie teaching professional. “However, if there is a situation where we still have a lockdown in September, yet it was safe for the players, what a global stay-at-home form of entertainment it would be, the whole golfing world would be on it. It could be a way for golf to give back and maybe it could become a charitable event which could get everyone on board.”

Jordan Smith – “Social media and TV ratings would go through the roof.”

“The fans do make the Ryder Cup – the atmosphere and buzz in the crowds as the players hole putts and rev the crowds up – it does make it special,” says the Worldwide Golf reporter. “If the options were to either cancel the tournament or just have it televised with no fans, I know what I’d be choosing! There might not be a buzz in the stands but imagine the hype in the digital world and social media – the TV ratings would go through the roof and with all the social media pages providing immense content for everyone at home, it would still make it special.”

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