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PGA of America consider staging Ryder Cup without fans

'Virtual fan experience' an option for tournament that is scheduled to take place at Whistling Straits in September

Tommy Fleetwood of England putts on to the seventh green during the 2018 Ryder Cup at The Golf National in Guyancourt, near Paris. EPA
Tommy Fleetwood of England putts on to the seventh green during the 2018 Ryder Cup at The Golf National in Guyancourt, near Paris. EPA

This year’s Ryder Cup could be staged without fans in light of the coronavirus crisis, according to the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) of America.

The highly anticipated clash between the United States and Europe is scheduled to take place at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, from September 25-27.

The Ryder Cup – golf’s most-viewed event – has become renowned for its boisterous and partisan crowds. However the current pandemic has led to speculation that this year’s competition will be played in front of empty galleries.

Speaking to New York's WFAN radio, PGA chief executive Seth Waugh said that while a Ryder Cup without spectators would be a bitter pill to swallow, the body was looking at various options.

"It's hard to imagine one without fans," Waugh said. "We have begun to talk about whether you could create some virtual fan experience, and we're going to try to be as creative as we can.

"It's [still] to be determined, frankly, whether you could hold it without fans or not... the fans are the Ryder Cup, to a certain degree."

Earlier this month, European captain Padraig Harrington conceded that the event should be cancelled if fans could not attend, before admitting at the weekend that it might well go ahead without spectators.

Last month, a report in The Telegraph said a postponement until next year was being strongly considered, only for organisers – PGA of America and the European Tour – to refute those claims. The Ryder Cup is critically important financially to both bodies.

Last Thursday, the PGA Tour announced that fans would be not be permitted at the first four events when its season restarts in June. The European Tour, meanwhile, has yet to confirm a date for its return, with its calendar cancelled and postponed through until the end of July.

Last week, chief executive Keith Pelley warned the tour would be “profoundly different” when it does start back up following the crisis, including significantly reduced prize funds.

Waugh said the PGA Championship, pushed back from May to early August in San Francisco, could also go ahead without spectators, adding: “All of them are better with fans, and I’m not suggesting it doesn’t change the experience, but in the Ryder Cup it’s particularly important. We’ll be very careful about that. It’s a very unique thing.”

Updated: April 21, 2020 12:45 PM

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