September's Ryder Cup will have "the full capacity crowd" at Whistling Straits with the US organisers promising Europe they will get to experience “the tribal atmosphere that’s so important”.
Whether Padraig Harrington, the visiting captain, believes 30,000-plus fans packed into the tight layout is vital to a successful week – or, indeed, vice versa – is a moot point, but there can be no doubting the enthusiasm of the PGA of America.
“Our plan is to have the greatest Ryder Cup in history,” Seth Waugh, the chief executive, said. “I think the world is ready to have a party.
“The Olympics is going to happen it looks like, but not in the way you would have hoped. And so this is really going to be the first time to cheer for your country, to have that sort of tribal atmosphere that’s so important.”
Waugh would not reveal exact numbers – the PGA of America never does – but it is known that it originally stretched it to the maximum for an expectant Wisconsin audience keen to see local favourite Steve Stricker as home captain.
“We were sold out as of a year ago and obviously then postponed and offered all ticket holders to either stay in or not for 2021,” he said. “The vast majority remained in. We’re hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to have full attendance.”
However, Waugh hinted that the European contingent might not be its usual size because of travel restrictions. "We realise the world still has a lot of challenges out there, but from a US perspective we think everything is going to happen fast,” he said.
Meanwhile, as the countdown for Thursday's first round of the USPGA intensified, Waugh emphasised that any players joining the Super Golf League, the proposed breakaway circuit backed by Saudi Arabian investors, would not be eligible for the Ryder Cup. The PGA Tour and European Tour have already indicated the rebels would be banned for life and every major would be expected to follow suit.
Waugh was asked if the Saudi targets – including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Rose -–should be “mindful” of the source of the money, believed to from the Saudi regime’s Public Investment Fund. “Very mindful,” Waugh said. “Money if money but some money is better than other money.”
The saga is rumbling on with agents of some the game’s top names due to meet with the SGL some in the locality on Tuesday night. It is understood that Lee Westwood recently told the SGL he was not interested. However, the veteran confessed he would have to rethink if the same figures were dangled in front of him. “If I was offered 50 million quid to play golf when I'm 48, it's a no-brainer.,” he said.
Westwood confirmed he will not be appearing in the Olympics. At 21st in the world, he would be on the cusp of qualification. “I’ve given notice I’m not going to play,” he said, citing his schedule and desire to be in “good shape” for the Ryder Cup, at which he is almost certain to equal the record of 11 appearances.