World No 1 Rory McIlroy says he would much rather postpone the Ryder Cup until next year than play it without fans.
The four-time major champion, 30, has joined a number of his fellow players in making a stand against the tournament going ahead in front of empty galleries, as golf struggles to deal with the implications of the coronavirus.
The PGA of America, one of the event organisers, confirmed at the weekend that they are considering the money-spinning biennial battle, set to take place at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in late September, be played without spectators.
However, in an Instagram Live event with TaylorMade Golf, McIlroy said: “I have a pretty strong view on this. I get the financial implications for everyone involved … there’s a lot that goes into putting on the Ryder Cup that people don’t probably know or appreciate. But having a Ryder Cup without fans is not a Ryder Cup.
“For me, I would much rather they delay it until 2021 than play it at Whistling Straits without fans. And that’s from a European going to America, knowing that I’m going to get abuse.”
McIlroy has become a key member of a typically dominant European side since his debut in 2010. He has been on the winning team in four of his five appearances, and was again at the forefront two years ago in France.
That said, the Northern Irishman has previously conceded to feeling much more pressure at a Ryder Cup than any of golf’s majors. In 2016, at Hazeltine, he was on the receiving end of some pretty rough treatment from the American crowds.
“Obviously it would be better for Europeans to play without fans because we wouldn’t have to deal with some of the stuff that you have to put up with," McIlroy said. "But at the same time it’s not a Ryder Cup.
“It wouldn’t be a great spectacle, there’d be no atmosphere. So 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 for a year and play it in 2021.
“If they do delay it until 2021, the next Ryder Cup is supposed to be in Italy, and we know how badly affected Italy was by coronavirus, so it gives that country an extra year to prepare for the Ryder Cup in 2023 instead of 2022. This is only one opinion but if we have to play the Ryder Cup behind closed doors this year, I’d rather just delay it.”
McIlroy hasn’t been the only player to speak out against a spectator-less Ryder Cup, with past and present teammates in Lee Westwood and Tommy Fleetwood this week adding their resistance to the idea.