The Ryder Cup, often referred to as sport’s third-biggest event, is expected to be postponed until next year, with the golf authorities rapidly reaching the decision that their most lucrative spectacle should not be jammed into a schedule that is contracting by the week due to the coronavirus crisis.
The biennial contest is due to be contested at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, in the last week of September, with the United States desperate to reclaim the trophy after just one victory in the past 12 years.
However, with the suspension of all of the major tours due to the coronavirus pandemic, the European Tour and PGA of America – the bodies that run the Ryder Cup – are ready to replicate the decision of 19 years ago. The 2001 Ryder Cup at the Belfry was delayed for a year following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The PGA Tour is also involved in these negotiations, as are Augusta National Golf Club and the United States Golf Association, which oversee the Masters and US Open respectively. The Masters, which was due to take place in three weeks’ time, is being planned for later in the year, with October appearing to be the favoured month.
None of other three Grand Slam events has yet to declare its position, but it is almost inconceivable that any will take place at their scheduled dates in May, June and July. It is understood that the R&A is desperate to ensure its major takes place at Royal St George’s some time this year as the governing body has made great store in hosting in the 150th Open next year at St Andrews, the so-called “Home of Golf”.
“They would be prepared to host it behind closed gates, with no spectators at all, if necessary,” an insider told Telegraph Sport. “There is so much invested in the 150th celebrations on the Old Course.”
The finances are even more gargantuan when it comes to Ryder Cup, but interestingly, the organisers would think it far from a disaster if they felt obliged to revert the match to being staged in odd years.
When golf was re-included in the Olympics in 2016, following a 112-year absence, it meant that every four years the Ryder Cup would had to go up against the sporting mammon. “There would be far bigger gains to be made in advertising and marketing and everything in a non-Olympic year,” another source said.
There is also the cost in staging the event to consider. There is a 16-week lead-up for infrastructure and insurance companies are understandably averse to taking on the risk. “There is zero chance the Ryder Cup will be played in front of no fans,” the insider said. The European Tour holds a full-board meeting next week with a Ryder Cup steering meeting a week later and it is then when the suspension could be ratified.
In 2001, the teams were already confirmed when it was cancelled with three weeks to go, but Paul McGinley, the former captain, believes that this time, the qualification process should continue. “Qualifying has only just started and the final teams are nowhere near being in place,” he told Sky Sports. “So, I would say that qualification would remain open.”