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PGA of America's Seth Waugh: 'A Ryder Cup with no fans is not a Ryder Cup'

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In what it viewed as a difficult-yet-necessary decision, the PGA of America confirmed that the Ryder Cup will be pushed back a year and played from Sept. 24-26, 2021, at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

In a move that had been reported by various outlets for weeks, the PGA along with the European Tour announced the matches will now be played in odd-numbered years, with the previously scheduled 2022 Ryder Cup in Italy moved to 2023. The move also required the PGA Tour to push back next year’s Presidents Cup to 2022.

Despite numerous reports in recent weeks that the matches would be rescheduled, PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh described a more detailed and debated process.

“It became clear sort of a month ago that 40,000 fans [a day at the event] had pretty much really no chance. Then we began to explore the responsibility of reduced fans, call it 10,000 or so,” Waugh said. “It really came back to the conclusion that there was really zero certainty that we could do it with fans and really a huge, high degree of risk that local authorities were uncomfortable with, even that kind of concept.”

Without fans, the conversation turned to whether the matches would be the same without the atmosphere that has become the game’s most intense.

“There was zero certainty we could do it without fans,” Waugh said. “It seems everyone in the press agreed: A Ryder Cup with no fans is not a Ryder Cup. A Ryder Cup is about the fans.”


Breaking News: Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup rescheduled

Breaking News: Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup rescheduled

The European Tour also announced on Wednesday an overhauled qualification process – which has been frozen until next year and will include points earned from September 2019 to March 2020 – while the PGA is still developing its new selection process.

Wednesday’s joint press conference notably included PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who was heavily involved in the process since it required the circuit to push back the Presidents Cup.

“As a partner we came to the table and were able to reach the right outcome for players and for fans and for our organizations and for the partners of both the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup,” Monahan said. “Ultimately this is about a really challenging set of circumstances, making the right decisions for our players and our fans, and Seth and [European Tour chief commercial officer Guy Kinnings] have done so with the Ryder Cup, we believe we've done so with the Presidents Cup, and the game is going to benefit.”

Since the decision to push back the Ryder Cup was almost entirely based on the inability to include fans this year, Waugh was asked how confident he is that the event will be able to be played with fans next fall.

“I would bet on science, I guess, is what I would say, personally, about the ability to figure out treatments/vaccines or protocols for safety, given that we have 15 months to do that,” he answered. 

Despite that optimism, Waugh did concede that if the matches can’t be played next fall, they would be cancelled 

“We’re hopeful we will hold it, but all bets are off in terms of what’s going on in the world,” he said.