Rory McIlroy says players should not be forced to play Ryder Cup without fans

James Corrigan
The Telegraph
Rory McIlroy after winning the 2018 Ryder Cup - CARL RECINE/Reuters
Rory McIlroy after winning the 2018 Ryder Cup - CARL RECINE/Reuters

Rory McIlroy has declared that players should not be forced to play the Ryder Cup behind closed doors in September, pointing out that the pros will not get paid for appearing at Whistling Straits and warned that it could severely damage the biennial dust-up’s unique popularity across the sports world.

The comments by the world No1 will be  a huge blow to the Ryder Cup organisers, who have repeatedly raised the prospect of the match going ahead without galleries in Wisconsin, despite the objection of many of the game’s top players, including Brooks Kopeka, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari and Jon Rahm. 

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Padraig Harrington, the Europe captain, stated two weeks ago that the dissenting players might be required to “take one for the team” because of the parlous state of the finances on the European Tour. However, McIlroy, quite understandably, does not see it that way. 

He has said before that it should be postponed until 2021, but on the McKellar Golf Podcast, the Northern Irishman went a lot further in explaining his stringent opposition.

The American players get a chunk of money that they donate to their own charities, but to ask players to go there under their own good, I think it would be asking a bit too much of them,” McIlroy said. “Because I would say the majority of players wouldn’t want to play in it that way and would rather wait a year. 

“Let’s face it, there is no Ryder Cup without the players at the end of the day. I don’t ever envisage when the players will be paid to play in the Ryder Cup, but the fact we are doing this … Look we obviously want to be part of the Ryder Cup and want to play it, but I think we would all much rather be played in front of fans and that is what should happen.”

The Ryder Cup would definitely not be the same without fans. There wouldn’t be any atmosphere for those watching on TV at home And the Ryder Cup has built up over the years - it has got bigger and better every time - I think it would  halt any momentum that the Ryder Cup has nowadays. And the fact it is the third or fourth biggest sports event in the world, I don’t see any reason why it cannot be played in 2021 with fans and have it be a celebration of golf. I can't see it being played without fans. It would just take everything away from it.”

McIlroy, who appears in an exhibition match involving Dustin Johnson on Sunday, also had harsh words for President Trump, with whom he controversially played two years ago. The 31-year-old  vowed never to do so again and criticised Trump’s actions during the coronavirus. 

“I will say that the day I had with him I enjoyed, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything, or, in fact, anything he says,” McIlroy said. “We are the midst of something pretty serious right now and the fact that he is trying to politicise it and make it a campaign rally and say that we administer the most tests in the world, like it’s a contest … 

“There is some stuff that is just terrible and It is not the way a leader should act. There is diplomacy you need to show and I just don’t think he is showing that in these times."

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