After declaring the Ryder Cup would not go ahead without spectators, European captain Padraig Harrington is willing to consider the possibility.
"Everyone wants fans to be there, but the question is: Does sport need the Ryder Cup and should the Ryder Cup take one for the team? Would it be for the greater good of sport?" Harrington said, according to Golf Channel's Will Gray. "It wouldn't be in the Ryder Cup's best interests, but it could be in the best interests of enough people who want to see a big sporting occasion on TV."
Rory McIlroy joined Harrington among those who have spoken out against a fanless Ryder Cup, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 25 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. McIlroy said he'd prefer the competition be postponed than played without a crowd.
However, Harrington added that the financial implications of postponing the Ryder Cup cannot be ignored. The European Tour has already furloughed staff, reports Rick Broadbent of The Times, and could face even more significant financial troubles if the 2022 Ryder Cup is pushed back a year. The 2022 edition is set to take place in Italy, and the home side in Ryder Cups benefits substantially more financially compared to the away team.
Harrington thinks the planned PGA Tour events without fans will help determine whether it's feasible to play a Ryder Cup in front of a crowd, even if the number of people permitted to attend is much lower than normal.
"If those PGA Tour events go well behind closed doors, then we are far more likely to see a Ryder Cup as normal," the three-time major winner said. "It massively increases the odds of being with fans, because by September we may have moved on. I assume there is no chance of a vaccine (by September), so we're looking at how well-contained it is by then, and how treatable it is."