In this post-coronavirus world, golf has been slowly getting back to normal.
The PGA Tour is now four tournaments deep into its behind-closed-doors resumption, and while some players and caddies have tested positive for COVID-19 the ‘bubble’ system used means that the ramifications of that have been lessened.
Meanwhile, the European Tour made its own tentative return today with the Austrian Open getting underway in Atzenbrugg.
For the foreseeable future, spectators won’t be allowed on the course. There was a hope that patrons would be allowed to return as early as next week’s Memorial Tournament in Ohio, however organisers have now called time on that idea.
Unable to guarantee the safety and welfare of everybody on the course, a lack of spectators has also put paid to this year’s Ryder Cup.
The biennial tournament between Team Europe and America was scheduled to take place at the Whistling Straits course in Wisconsin on September 25-27, however the PGA of America chief Seth Waugh has ended any hopes of the team-based event going ahead as planned.
“The spectators make it a unique and compelling event and playing without them was not a realistic option,” he said.
“It became clear that our medical experts and the public authorities in Wisconsin could not give us certainty that conducting an event responsibly with thousands of spectators in September would be possible.”
Golf But Not As We Know It
The truth is that the week-to-week machinations of tour golf around the world can easily exist without punters on the site.
Yes, the eerie silence that greets a shot takes some getting used to, and there are some betting considerations of no fans too – the rough doesn’t get trampled down as much, and so errant tee shots can be punished more severely. But, all things considered, a live audience is not the be-all-and-end-all for the sport.
However, there is one exception to that rule: the Ryder Cup.
This is rock and roll golf, where spectators are actively encouraged to be vocal and passionate in support of their team. Players are openly heckled prior to hitting their shot, and occasionally the ‘abuse’ steps over the line – Rory McIlroy had an American spectator removed from the premises at the 2016 Ryder Cup after he made an obscene comment about the Irishman’s girlfriend.
However, McIlroy is in no doubt that the events needs to go ahead with supporters on the sidelines.
“A Ryder Cup without fans is not a Ryder Cup,” he said.
“If it came to whether they had to choose between not playing the event or playing it without fans, I would say just delay it a year and play it in 2021.”
Team Europe won the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris, with more than 270,000 spectators visiting the course throughout the three days. These came from more than 90 countries, and the pressure was upped yet further by the presence of a huge grandstand on the first tee which had a capacity of some 6,900 people.