European captain torn over ‘diminished’ Ryder Cup

AP – Padraig Harrington was planning to bring a 150-strong travelling party with him to the Ryder Cup, giving the people closest to the European captain something of an inside experience of one of the great events in golf.

“I’m now down to four, something like that,” Harrington said, rather dolefully, as he assessed the wreckage of a tournament that is still scheduled to be played on September 25-27 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

The coronavirus pandemic has ripped up the sporting calendar, but the Ryder Cup survives. So far.

And in a form Harrington knows will be unappetising to many golf enthusiasts and people beyond the sport who are attracted to the boisterous biennial contest between the United States (US) and Europe.

Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka, two of the biggest names in golf, have been among a growing group of players to have asked out loud: What’s the point in a Ryder Cup without fans?

Padraig Harrington tees off on the eighth hole during the first round of the Father Son Challenge golf tournament in Orlando. PHOTO: AP

“My friends who don’t play golf are into the Ryder Cup because of the buzz, the atmosphere, the excitement. That’s why the players enjoy it and play it. It’s going to be missed,” Harrington said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

“If it’s on, it’s without fans. Or without a semblance of fans because there won’t be the ones coming from Europe. If you only have home fans, there’s nothing to cheer for and against. That’s it, at the end of the day.”

Harrington accepts, therefore, the 2020 edition of the Ryder Cup will be a “diminished” product.

But, in the big picture, can it still have wider value?

“The question is, do they take one for sport?” he asked. “Do people sitting at home want the Ryder Cup in a diminished format just so they have sport on TV?

“There is a much bigger thing going on,” Harrington added. “Put it in context of what’s going on in the world. But this is why we are actually talking about the Ryder Cup going ahead. Because, in its current form, it certainly would only go on because sport may need – and people may need – a bit of an uplift.”