Could the Ryder Cup be played this year without spectators?
The scenario is at least being discussed by PGA of America executives.
PGA CEO Seth Waugh said during an appearance on a WFAN radio show Sunday that his organization is looking into the possibility of playing the biennial matches behind closed doors.
“It’s hard to imagine one without fans,” he said. “We have begun to talk about whether you could create some virtual fan experience, and we’re going to try to be as creative as we can. It’s [still] to be determined, frankly, whether you could hold it without fans or not.”
Scheduled for Sept. 25-27 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, the Ryder Cup is always one of the most well-attended events in sports, and Waugh conceded that “the fans are the Ryder Cup, to a certain degree.”
Still, these are unprecedented times, and there are financial implications for both the PGA and its various partners (including the European Tour) if the event is postponed until 2021.
Though no decision is imminent, the Ryder Cup figures to become a topic of discussion if the PGA Tour is able to resume its season, as planned, in mid-June. At least the first four Tour events will be held without spectators, while the European Tour has scrapped tournaments until at least the end of July, which complicates its Ryder Cup qualification process.
The PGA Championship, scheduled for Aug. 6-9 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, is also in question after California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that mass gatherings are unlikely through the summer.
On the radio show, Waugh estimated that the PGA would require roughly 1,000 to 1,500 people (players, caddies, rules officials, volunteers and media) on-site to host the major but, spread out over 300 acres, they could still comply with social-distancing guidelines. He also expected to have “adequate and fast testing” at that point, and that health experts believe it’s “100 percent possible.”
Still, Waugh acknowledged that a major without fans is different than a spectator-less Ryder Cup.
“All of them are better with fans,” he said, “and I’m not suggesting it doesn’t change the experience, but in the Ryder Cup it’s particularly important. We’ll be very careful about that. It’s a very unique thing.”