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McIlroy and McDowell: Ryder Cup wouldn't work without fans and would be better delayed



Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell last played in a Ryder Cup together in 2014.

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell last played in a Ryder Cup together in 2014.

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Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell last played in a Ryder Cup together in 2014.

Northern Irish duo Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell have called on Ryder Cup officials to delay the tournament until 2021 if this year's event can't go ahead in front of supporters.

The 2020 edition is due to be played at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin at the end of September. However, tournament officials have admitted that playing behind closed doors is a possibility as sport continues to try to get back up and running having been halted by Covid-19.

The PGA Tour recently confirmed the resumption of its schedule in June, with its first four events set to be played behind closed doors to prevent further spread of the virus.

One of the fall-back plans for the Ryder Cup, should it still be unsafe to allow spectators onto the course in September, would be to opt for the same date and hold the biennial USA v Europe clash behind closed doors.

However, that idea has drawn a cool response from European captain Padraig Harrington and US counterpart Steve Stricker in recent weeks.

Now Northern Ireland's two top golfers have spoken out about the need to protect the unique atmosphere of the event.

In a live stream on Instagram last night with his sponsor TaylorMade, Holywood native McIlroy argued that: "Having a Ryder Cup without fans, it's not a Ryder Cup.

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"For me, I would much rather them delay it until 2021 to play the Ryder Cup than play it at Whistling Straits without fans. And that's from a European going to America where I know I'm going to get abuse.

"Obviously it would be better for us as Europeans not to play with fans because we wouldn't have to deal with some of the stuff we put up with. But at the same time, it wouldn't be a Ryder Cup, it wouldn't be the same spectacle, the same atmosphere.

"If it came to whether they had to choose between not playing the Ryder Cup or playing without fans, just delay it by a year."

McDowell, ranked 49th in the world and having recently received his invite to this year's Masters, is hoping he can play his way onto the European team for the first time since 2014.

After his recent success at the Saudi International and fourth place finish at the Sony Open, McDowell has shot up over 70 places in the world rankings this year. As things stand, he's one place outside qualification for the European team.

Should the tournament proceed on September 25-27 as planned, it is likely that the teams captains will be given more picks after many of the qualifying tournaments were postponed due to the coronavirus.

Whether it's by playing merit or by Harrington's choice, McDowell admits it would be 'special' to play in his fifth Ryder Cup but wouldn't want to do it on an empty course.

"It's still on the schedule somehow," he told RTE's Game On.

"It would be an incredible prospect to see a Ryder Cup played behind closed doors. My own personal opinion is that the Ryder Cup, of all the golf tournaments in the world, probably the only one - that and the President's Cup - that doesn't work without fans. It really brings so much to the atmosphere and they are what it's all about.

"The partisan nature of the fans, the home advantage, the noise, the Ryder Cup for me just doesn't work without that fan interaction." 

"There is just something interesting when you walk onto that first tee at a Ryder Cup and you stare across at the guy you're playing against or the two guys you're playing against.

"The crowd just bring the buzz and I've never hit tee shots in my life feeling the way I feel at a Ryder Cup. You're just so fired up and you're so pumped up."

The tournament was previously postponed for a year after the September 11 terror attacks on the US in 2001.

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