There is still a small window before the organisers make a final decision on whether the Ryder Cup in September will go ahead as planned. But it’s fair to say the mood has changed.
A month ago, it was all bullish optimism on both sides of the Atlantic as the two sides came together to knock down reports that the biennial contest was on the brink of joining the starry list of events postponed until 2021.
In this newspaper, Europe captain Padraig Harrington epitomised the defiant stance in a passionate interview expressing his determination to lead his side out at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin.
Europe captain Padraig Harrington is determined to lead his side out at Whistling Straits
Back then, there appeared to be a whole summer to sort out the pandemic before setting the world back on its axis with the Ryder Cup. A month on, alas, and the logistical challenges have grown to the point where a postponement has become a distinct possibility.
An army of around 10,000 people are due on flights from all parts of Europe to America for the match, but will worldwide travel be in anything like a cohesive state to cope, or fans in the mood for such a journey?
The rescheduling of the majors has also added to the wreckage of the Ryder Cup qualifying process, at least as far as Europe is concerned. The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth is supposed to be the last qualifying event but in its present date, between the FedEx Cup finale in Atlanta and the US Open in New York, none of the stars would turn up. And how do you finalise a team when the last round of a major championship falls just six days before the first series of matches?
Rory McIlroy would rather postpone the Ryder Cup until 2021 than play it without fans
So we move on to a solution mused upon idly by Seth Waugh — CEO of the PGA of America, who are responsible for the event when it is staged in the US — and what feels like the worst of all worlds: a Ryder Cup without fans.
Is there anyone who seriously thinks this could possibly be a good idea? Certainly not the two captains, or anyone who could play for either team when asked for their opinion. Would the authorities really want to foist such a version on two teams with no heart for it? Or ask American captain Steve Stricker, who lives in Wisconsin, to lead out his team when everyone else in his home state would have to watch it on television?
Does that sound remotely in the spirit of the Ryder Cup?
We are all desperate for an autumnal joust to raise morale at the end of such a difficult year — but surely not that desperate.
He believes holding it without fans would take away from the spectacle and atmosphere
Swiftly ruling that option out, is there anything left bar postponement for 12 months?
Let’s hope something game-changing happens in the world of science that allows the powers that be to plump for something more palatable. But it will need to happen soon, for time is running out on a 2020 Ryder Cup.
In the meantime, one Irish citizen must be wondering if fate is about to shine benevolently. JP McManus has already secured the 2026 Ryder Cup for Adare Manor, Limerick.
If it moves on a year, he would have the honour of hosting the 100th anniversary edition in 2027.
Good deed of the Week: Ian Finnis
Husband to former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis, caddie to Tommy Fleetwood, possessing a scouse accent many people find impenetrable — yes, there are a few ways by which Ian Finnis is known.
Now we can add another following a selfless act of fundraising. Working for one of Europe’s finest golfers has allowed Finnis to gather sufficient savings to see him through the lockdown, but he did not forget those at the bottom end of the caddying scale currently living on slender means.
He organised a raffle on social media to raise funds that took on a life of its own. Rory McIlroy donated a signed golf bag from his Tour Championship win last year. Fleetwood and Finno, as he’s universally known, offered the prize of a round of golf at West Lancs for two people. Paul Lawrie offered to play alongside three people at Carnoustie, where he won the 1999 Open. Charley Hull will take a winner plus their guest around her home course, Woburn.
In all, there were 31 glittering prizes to be won, resulting in Finno raising £125,000 for some of his less fortunate brethren in the European Tour Caddies’ Association.
Fleetwood has long had a reputation as one of the genuine guys on tour.
Now the wider world knows that the tall bloke by his side is a good egg, too.