The worst-kept secret in golf became official Wednesday with the postponement of the Ryder Cup to fall 2021.
The move has significant ramifications for all of the various stakeholders, but the 12-month delay also affects the players. Consider: Over the next calendar year they’ll play seven majors, two FedExCup playoffs, one Players Championship and an Olympics. That’ll cause plenty of ranking reshuffling.
So, here’s who a 2021 Ryder Cup helps – and, unfortunately, hurts.
A 2021 Ryder Cup HELPS ...
• Young American stars: Collin Morikawa has been the best of the U.S. up-and-comers, but after turning pro last summer he still ranked 16th in the standings with seven qualifying events to go. Had he played well in those events – a good bet, considering his track record – Morikawa would have given U.S. captain Steve Stricker plenty to consider as one of the wildcard picks. But would Stricker really have taken a flier on the 23-year-old over proven commodities and decades-old pals like Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson?
Now it shouldn’t even be a question.
Morikawa has 14 more months to prove himself to Stricker, and there’s little doubt he’ll be on that squad. There’s also a wider window of opportunity now for Matthew Wolff, Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Champ, among others.
The future of the U.S. Ryder Cup looks strong, very strong.
• Jordan Spieth: A 13-week break didn’t cure all that ails Spieth’s game, but it’s reasonable to assume that he’d benefit from another year-plus of tournament action and practice. He has too much talent and grit not to rediscover his magic.
Entering this week’s event, he ranked 19th in the standings and likely would have been on Stricker’s radar given his putting prowess and past success at Whistling Straits. But Tiger Woods passed on Spieth for a spot in the Presidents Cup, and the former world No. 1’s game has continued to be inconsistent after the restart.
Not having to press to try and make this year’s squad can only help.
• Rickie Fowler: Just as he was at the Presidents Cup, Fowler looked like a fringe candidate as we entered the final few weeks of qualifying. He was an 11th-hour addition for Royal Melbourne because of a late withdrawal and his oft-mentioned team-room presence (and he performed admirably, contributing 2 ½ points), but not much has changed with his playing status.
Working through a swing change with coach John Tillery, Fowler’s ball-striking has been sporadic, and his tidy short game and molten putter have regressed with more emphasis on his longer clubs.
Fowler is coming off a T-12 in Detroit, and perhaps he’d catch fire this summer and justify a pick. But this delay gives him a chance to get his game in order and play in his fifth Ryder Cup.
• Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed: The two most polarizing players in the sport just so happen to wear the red, white and blue.
Sure, Stricker could just send out DeChambeau and Reed together – they are both ranked in the top 10 in the world, after all – but of greater intrigue is how they’d interact with their mates in the team room. DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka have had their differences over the years, and Patrick Reed’s rules controversy in the Bahamas last December threatened to overshadow the Presidents Cup until a spirited Sunday rally. They each bring unique qualities to a Ryder Cup at big, brawny Whistling Straits – DeChambeau his mammoth length, Reed his match-play expertise – and it’ll be up to Stricker and his assistants to repair any rifts that may exist.
An extra year offers plenty of time for some team-building exercises.
A 2021 Ryder Cup HURTS ...
• Brendon Todd: Talk about a double whammy for Todd, who was overlooked for the 2019 Presidents Cup despite nearly going 3-for-3 last fall and now has to wait another year for a chance to play on his first cup team. With no Ryder Cup points awarded last fall, Todd sits at No. 57 in the standings ... despite being one of the 12 best Americans this season.
Todd’s revival has been one of the feel-good stories of the season, after he nearly gave up the game because of the yips. Once a broken player, he’s now approaching the top 50 in the world, but he’ll need another year of strong results – especially in the game’s premier events – to be considered.
• Team Europe's aging stars: Though a conventional qualifying process should benefit the Europeans – some of whom haven’t played competitively since March because of the pandemic – the squad could look wildly different next fall. Among those who likely would have required a pick: Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Paul Casey and Graeme McDowell.
What do they have in common? By next month, they’ll all be 40 or older.
Lee Westwood, at 47, was in line to be an automatic qualifier, and it’s uncertain whether he’ll be able to maintain that strong form for another year.
Had the Ryder Cup been played in a few months, the Europeans probably could have squeezed another run out of that legendary core. But to wait another year? Expect some turnover – and some new faces.
• Team Europe: A Ryder Cup without fans, or even with 50% spectator capacity, would have reduced the home-course advantage for the Americans. The same won’t be true next fall, assuming that tens of thousands of fans are once again allowed to stream through the gates and cram shoulder to shoulder to cheer on Team USA.
With another year of buildup, the partisan crowd will be even more unhinged than Hazeltine. Good luck in that hostile environment.
• Tiger Woods: Stating the obvious: It’s another year of mileage on his 44-year-old body, and the Ryder Cup, rescheduled for Sept. 24-26, 2021, will come at the end of a long season and jampacked schedule. That’s not ideal.
Gone are the days when he’d play four or five sessions, but at the Presidents Cup, Woods showed he can still be a significant contributor even in limited action. Hopefully he’s up for another reduced role next fall.