The European Tour Cannot Afford A Postponed Ryder Cup

Read our editor-at-large Bill Elliott's latest GM column on why the European Tour can't afford the financial hit of a postponed Ryder Cup

The European Tour Cannot Afford A Postponed Ryder Cup
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Read our editor-at-large Bill Elliott's latest GM column on why the European Tour can't afford the financial hit of a postponed Ryder Cup

The European Tour Cannot Afford A Postponed Ryder Cup

And so it drones on, wearying, worrying and, for some unfortunates, much worse than that.

It’s tedious not being able to play golf in the sunshine, but it’s a damn sight more tedious being dead.

By the time you cast a drooping eye over this sentence, golf courses may be open again, the old game socially distanced, the flags left in, the rakes left out, the clubhouse shuttered.

Not the same, of course, but better than nothing – much, much better.

Getting us back to playing some form of the game is more important than easing the pros back into tournaments.

It’s more important because there are more of us and clubs need some income asap.

It looks like the USA will lead the way on this.

This is partly because they have a president who owns golf clubs and partly because a significant number of impatient golfers own automatic weapons as well as three wedges.

That’s a compelling combination even if events ultimately conspire against them.

There remains a chance, however, that pro golf in the States will begin again in June, and that we will be able to watch the USPGA Championship, the US Open and The Masters between August and November.

Oh, and the Ryder Cup in September.

All of them without any fans to add noise, colour, atmosphere and, “mash potato”, occasional serious irritation.

But a Ryder Cup without fans? Really? Apparently it’s on.

Early in April Europe’s skipper Padraig Harrington joined in with Rory McIlroy to suggest “no fans, no matches”. End of. Except it wasn’t.

By the end of the month Harrington was saying “well, eh, we may have to do it”.

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Not that he wants to – no way. Padraig wants what every other captain desires – big crowds, big noise, a big, fancy dinner with his wife in her new gown and the rest of his family and friends there to join in the fun.

Win or lose, this is what they all want and they are right to seek it.

Minus the fans and the rest of the glitzy stuff, the captaincy is more a chore than an honour.

Now, however, someone has taken Harrington aside and explained the hard fact of this matter.

It is this: if the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits is moved to 2021, the next gig in Rome will be shifted to 2023 and the European Tour cannot afford to take that financial hit on top of all the other blows it is currently suffering.

This is by far its biggest earner and without it, the European Tour may well struggle to even survive.

It would certainly be a much easier target should the PGA Tour choose to move in and take over the world.

It’s why I reckon that if nothing else happens in the pro world this year, an empty Ryder Cup is the one big thing that may well occur.

We’ll all watch it, but it won’t be the same.

I saw an empty Ryder Cup once, the 1979 episode at The Greenbrier, an 11,000 acre property in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

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The Ryder Cup meant next to nothing to the American public back then.

There was no TV coverage, not a lot of any kind of media and the attendance at the pre-match dinner was significantly bigger than the attendance when the golf began.

Two memorable things occurred that week:

1 - Mark James and Ken Brown behaved poorly, were almost sent home and gave us newspaper reporters the most sensational Ryder Cup story ever;

2 - The Sulphur Springs Motel we stayed in was okayish but, after a few nights sat at the same bar, three of us decided we needed a change of scene. I called for a cab and the driver asked: “Where you guys wanna go?” I suggested he take us to “the best place in town”.

He grinned, said “Yessir”, gunned the motor and took off, making a wide circle across the road to return to where we’d started.

He grinned again. “You’re at it, have fun.”

It was such a great gag that we invited him to come back in with us for a drink, and when he left three hours later we had to call for a cab to take him home.

Happy days.

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Editor At Large

Bill has been part of the Golf Monthly woodwork for many years. A very respected Golf Journalist he has attended over 40 Open Championships. Bill  was the Observer's golf correspondent. He spent 26 years as a sports writer for Express Newspapers and is a former Magazine Sportswriter of the Year. After 40 years on 'Fleet Street' starting with the Daily Express and finishing on The Observer and Guardian in 2010. Now semi-retired but still Editor at Large of Golf Monthly Magazine and regular broadcaster for BBC and Sky. Author of several golf-related books and a former chairman of the Association of Golf Writers. Experienced after dinner speaker.