Would the Ryder Cup be the Ryder Cup without fans? PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh reflects

ryder cup with fans

Would the Ryder Cup be the Ryder Cup without fans?

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And now, people, the exciting conclusion to our three-part miniseries: Being Seth Waugh in the Age of Covid. (Here’s Part I, and here’s Part II.) In this episode, Waugh discusses his expectations for the Ryder Cup, scheduled for Whistling Straits, in rural Wisconsin, Sept. 25-27.

On Sunday, I asked Waugh about the prospect of a Ryder Cup without fans.

“That’s one of our big decisions, is the Ryder Cup the Ryder Cup if you have it without fans,” he said. “If you don’t have fans, the question becomes, ‘Is that a true Ryder Cup or not?’”

He mentioned his conversations with Steve Stricker, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain.

“Steve and I have talked about that,” Waugh said. “He’s from Wisconsin. He loves the people there, he loves the fans there. Augusta without fans would be strange. A Ryder Cup without fans would be even more strange. But that’s premature. We’re hoping September will be normal.

“Whatever we do, we’re going to act as an entity, as the community of golf. Tennis’s approach has been each event for itself. Our approach has been different.”

Rory McIlroy has no interest in a Ryder Cup without fans
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Waugh talked about how Jay Monahan from the PGA Tour, Keith Pelley from the European Tour and other golf officials, Waugh among them, have been working together to create a schedule, one that includes the Ryder Cup.

“Jay has been amazing about it,” Waugh said. “Every time he gives up a day it costs him money. To his season, to his FedEx Cup. Golf is a company. We run the business of golf. We’re the board of directors. So how do we act in the interest of all the stakeholders? The bodies of golf have come together to act in the best interests of the game.”

The American Ryder Cup is run by the PGA of America. If the Ryder Cup is not played this year, that could be a week there could be a PGA Tour event. Rory McIlroy said earlier this week that he cannot imagine a Ryder Cup without fans. In a TaylorMade spot earlier this week, McIlroy said, “If it came to whether they had to choose between not playing the Ryder Cup or playing it without fans, I would say just delay it a year.”

McIlroy is not only one of the most thoughtful players in the game, he’s also a two-time PGA Championship winner, so his voice is particularly well-heard in the virtual (for now) hallways of the PGA of America. Plus, McIlroy’s wife, Erica, is a former PGA of America employee.

But McIlroy could also have one of the great autumns in golf history: In late September, playing for captain Padraig Harrington, he could help the Europeans win another road-game Ryder Cup, as they last did in 2012, at Medinah, where McIlroy met Erica Stoll. She helped McIlroy get to his Sunday tee time under stressful circumstances.

Then, in mid-November at Augusta, McIroy could become the sixth man to complete the career Grand Slam. All he needs to do is win.

Seth Waugh would surely be happy with half of the scenario. In the meantime, he’s hoping for inexpensive, fast and easy Covid-19 testing, “a return to normal,” and a Ryder Cup with Rory McIlroy, with fans — and ending with the cup staying Stateside.

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments and suggestions at Michael_Bamberger@GOLF.com.

Michael Bamberger

Michael Bamberger

Golf.com Contributor

Michael Bamberger writes for GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. Before that, he spent nearly 23 years as senior writer for Sports Illustrated. After college, he worked as a newspaper reporter, first for the (Martha’s) Vineyard Gazette, later for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He has written a variety of books about golf and other subjects, the most recent of which is The Second Life of Tiger Woods. His magazine work has been featured in multiple editions of The Best American Sports Writing. He holds a U.S. patent on The E-Club, a utility golf club. In 2016, he was given the Donald Ross Award by the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the organization’s highest honor.