Two weeks ago, James Corrigan reported within the Telegraph that the Ryder Cup was set to be postponed until 2021. It had been no big surprise—even though the biennial competition is contested in late September. At a time when the impact of the coronavirus will hopefully have diminished, the composition of the USA and European teams are connected to the results of events held throughout the spring and summer.
If those were being exhausted by the virus, it stood to reason that albeit things had improved by the autumn, playing the Ryder Cup was faraway from a certainty. However, the PGA of America, which runs the Ryder Cup when it’s played within the U.S., was quick with a response:
Reports today that the 2020 @RyderCup is expected to be postponed are inaccurate.
— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA) March 17, 2020
Since then, there has been no word from the PGA of America and Whistling Straits. If anything, the “insider” who spoke to the Telegraph made it even tougher to seek out any solid information about the direction of discussions the past fortnight. Publicly, PGA of America Senior Director of Public Awareness Julius Mason and other representatives are pointing journalists to the tweet above because of the “latest statement.”
However, there are developments within the remainder of the golf world that have an immediate impact on the Ryder Cup. As Golf Digest reported on Friday, there are discussions underway that would see this year’s major championships moved to the autumn.
Two majors are already postponed (The Masters and PGA Championship), and therefore the two others potentially will follow briefly order. The PGA of America has reportedly checked out the vacated Olympic dates in late July or early August for a rescheduled PGA Championship, with the opposite three majors considering fall dates that come near—and in some cases after—the Ryder Cup’s current competition dates of Sept. 25-27.
It’s not hard to ascertain the conundrum here: Essentially, the Ryder Cup is powerless to act without more information. Well, not powerless exactly—in theory, officials could draw a line within the sand, say “we’re playing the Ryder Cup on our original date” and let the opposite events work around them. The matters are, the Ryder Cup status is essentially hooked into American and European players buying in, and it’s a clear incontrovertible fact that most players value the majors quite the Ryder Cup.
When a Ryder Cup stalwart like Graeme McDowell, who was a vice-captain to Thomas Bjorn in 2018 and can be a captain himself at some point, says that “majors take priority over the Ryder Cup,” he’s likely not alone.
That’s the difficulty here—while the Ryder Cup isn’t helpless, it holds less power than the majors. To form a move that risks picking a fight with the U.S. Open, or the Masters, or any major championship is to risk a loss of status if the players are forced into a choice. The idea, then, of holding to the last weekend in September wouldn’t be practical or strategically smart.
It is sensible that the PGA of America denied the first reports about the postponement, but it also is sensible that the postponement was reported in the first place. If the coronavirus situation resolves faster than expected, which appears exceedingly unlikely at the instant, it’s still possible that there’ll be how to stay the general schedule roughly on target, from the majors to the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs, with only slight adjustments.
If that hypothetical future came to pass, staging the Ryder Cup in September could still be a sensible outcome. With such a lot of money and planning already poured into Whistling Straits, it stands to reason that the PGA of America would play a game of wait-and-see, and deny any reports that a postponement decision has been made. As long as there’s hope, why not hold out?
However, within the much more likely case that the COVID-19 protocols are extended into summer, and therefore the majors are played within the late summer or early fall (at best), it’s hard to imagine how to watch the Ryder Cup in 2020. The event depends on everything that comes before, a minimum of during a normal year. That would change if a radical format shift were adopted, like Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington fielding teams made up entirely of captain’s picks. However, this seems far-fetched. In 2001, when the Ryder Cup was delayed by the Sept. 11 attacks, the qualifiers from that year were kept in situ, no matter what transpired within the 2002 season.
The qualification process isn’t quite sacred since there are slight variations through the years, but an entire overhaul is perhaps not within the cards. (Not to say the very fact that we’re already well into the qualifying process.) albeit such a change was possible, the potential scheduling of the majors within the fall remains a drag. Unlike the Presidents Cup in Melbourne in 2019, Wisconsin isn’t an area where you’ll decide to play golf in December. neither is the PGA of America getting to change locations. The financial and logistical agreements that went into Whistling Straits hosting this Ryder Cup can’t be unraveled on such short notice, albeit that’s what all parties wanted (they don’t).