If coronavirus had been just a bad dream, we would have been looking forward to the Open Championship getting underway at Royal St George’s on Thursday. If only. And last week it was confirmed that the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in September has been delayed for a year. As I wrote in a previous blog, given that this year’s match would have had to be played without spectators, I think this has to be the correct decision.
Guy Kinnings, Europe’s Ryder Cup director, explained the thinking. “The Ryder Cup is rightly celebrated as one of the world’s greatest sporting occasions, made special and totally unique in our sport by the fervent atmosphere created by the passionate spectators of both sides. While that point is significant, it is not as important as the health of the spectators which, in these difficult times, is always the main consideration. We considered all options, including playing with a limited attendance, but all our stakeholders agreed this would dilute the magic of this great occasion.”
Rory McIlroy had previously said the match should not be played without fans, and Brooks Koepka had said he might not play if they weren’t there, so this decision will sit well with them. But given that no one expects Covid-19 to have gone away by September 24, 2021 – well, unless there’s a vaccine by then – there can be no guarantee we might not be in the same situation a year from now. “If we do get [to that circumstance], it likely will result in a cancellation,” said Seth Waugh, chief executive of the PGA of America. “I don’t think we can perpetually roll things forward.”
Incidentally, while the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome in (now) 2023 and Adare Manor in Limerick in 2027 are the only host venues in Europe to be identified thus far, the Americans are sorted through to 2037.
There has been much speculation about the impact this will have on the finances of the European Tour, which only resumed its playing operations last Thursday after a four-month hiatus. The pushing back of the 2022 match by a year means that whereas the Ryder Cup ordinarily provides a big profit for the Tour every fourth year after three years of losses, the equation next time will be a big profit to offset four years of losses. The monetary hit to the European Tour brought about by the postponement isn’t so much about this year – where, as the ‘away side’, it would have received about 20% of the revenue – as it is about the Roman delay. Still, with purses in Austria both last week and this set at only €500,000, the players will be getting used to the new normal when it comes to their remuneration, which in itself will be at least somewhat helpful for the Tour’s ongoing finances.
Between now and us (hopefully) getting to Whistling Straits in 14 months’ time, we’ll have had two Masters, two US Opens, two USPGAs, the resumed Open Championship and an Olympic golf competition. Golf-wise, perhaps by then coronavirus might seem like a bad dream rather than a living nightmare.
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