• Ryder Cup: To play or not to play

    Justin Thomas at the Ryder Cup
    Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy

    The first golf event without fans lining the fairways. Wade Pretorius and Andre Huisamen debate whether or not the Ryder Cup needs fans in 2020.

    Huisamen: The show must go on

    A definite yes! Lee Westwood nailed it on the head this week:’I just don’t see somebody holing the winning putt, from either side, on the 18th green or wherever it may be, turning to an empty stand, raising his hands in the air and it feeling the same.’

    September is still some time away before the attention turns to Whistling Straits, meaning the resumption of the PGA Tour in a couple of weeks should provide enough time to see what will work and what won’t in the run-in to the Ryder Cup.

    By that time, a clear protocol should be in place for health and safety procedures to follow – not just for golf, but for sport in general. A lot has been said about boosting sports fans’ morale after everything that’s happened; I can’t think of anything better and bigger than a proper and vocal Ryder Cup to do that for the game of golf.

    Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka have been correct in saying the Ryder Cup really is an event for the fans. Think of Medinah in 2012, Gleneagles in 2014, probably the loudest USA crowd ever at Hazeltine in 2016 and, of course, Le Golf National two years ago.

    Whistling Straits will be roaring come 28 September, not to mention fans who will be in for one of the most competitive and strongest Ryder Cup fields in recent years. Paris provided a glimpse of that but this year should be a spectacle given the amount of talent on show from both camps and the US’ need for revenge.

    McIlroy and Jon Rahm at the top of the golfing world with a host of young Americans eager to spoil repeat party. Fans need to be there to witness it.

    Pretorius: No fans, no cup this year …

    Look, Andre isn’t wrong in saying that the event needs fans. But I’ll throw the curveball here and suggest the event shouldn’t be played at all if the last resort is to play in a vacuum without spectators.

    My colleague is correct (again) in looking back to previous years and noting the escalation in fan attendance and noise levels around the event. Even as impartial South Africans, we can see how it’s turn into one of sports biggest shows.

    But Whistling Straits in September is not that far away. There’s a reason why The Open was cancelled this year. The venue provides a logistical nightmare when it comes to getting fans there and back safely … it’s nearly 100km from the nearest city and thus congregations of supporters are as unavoidable as it is inevitable. We know how quickly the virus spreads. This type of event could – worst- case scenario – create a catalyst for the second wave of transmissions.

    We haven’t even reached the point of international travel – will foreigners be able to make it? And the increasingly awkward team selection conundrum; will it be 12 captain’s picks, how fair is that to those currently in the automatic standings?

    Each issue raises questions about the legitimacy of the staging of this event in 2020.

    While I’ll be glad for the scrapping of the opening ceremony, players arriving at the first tee on the first morning of play without a fan in sight will not be good for the teams or the sport.

    The golf calendar is crammed and delicate but playing the Ryder Cup without sound doesn’t sit right with me. And it shouldn’t with you.

    There’s a long way to go until September and I hope the sport forges on safely with its plans to resume play. I’d love nothing more to be proven wrong in a few months’ time but I have my doubts about turning on the TV in September to watch McIlroy defeat Justin Thomas and only 11 players, their caddies (?), captain Padraig and a few vice-captains there to celebrate with him.

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