Good morning, sports fans. The sun is shining in Chicago, TFE’s writers are as happy as clams, and the newsletter awaits! Let’s hit it.
News and updates
- Rory McIlory said he has a “personal hunch” that the Ryder Cup will be delayed until 2021. “If [the players] are not on board with it and don’t want to play, then there is no Ryder Cup,” he told the BBC. More on this below.
- The Match: Champions for Charity averaged an astounding 5.8 million viewers on Sunday afternoon. Not only was it the most-watched golf broadcast in cable TV history, but it also outperformed the final rounds of the 2019 Open Championship and PGA Championship.
A fanless Ryder Cup: pros and cons
As the pandemic wears on, many professional sports are contemplating fanless events. The PGA Tour currently plans to go without spectators for its first four weeks back in June. There are also rumors of a fanless U.S. Open and a fanless PGA Championship. These events can certainly maintain the integrity of competition without galleries, but the prospect of a fanless Ryder Cup has people drawing battle lines and sharpening pitchforks.
Rory McIlroy hasn’t been shy about his distaste for the idea. His sound bites this week further cemented his stance, and other top players, such as Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm, joined him. All have pointed out that a fanless event could never generate the energy of a real Ryder Cup. There would be nothing like the grandstand behind the 1st tee at Le Golf National or the mobs that followed Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy around Hazeltine. “The fans make that event,” Koepka said. “That’s why we get nervous.” Rahm added, “If [the fans] are not there, it’s just 24 guys playing golf over a weekend with people watching at home. It just wouldn’t be the same thing.”
They’re right. It wouldn’t be the same. But there is a broader view to take here. Fans are craving live sports, and the European Tour probably needs revenue, quick. “There is a much bigger thing going on,” said European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington. “Put it in context of what’s going on in the world. Because in its current form, [the Ryder Cup] certainly would only go on because sport may need—and people may need—a bit of an uplift.”
After the made-for-TV matches at Seminole and Medalist, we know that fanless golf events can work. That they can be exciting. Millions tuned into both events, and Turner Sports’ broadcast of the Tiger-Phil-Manning-Brady match garnered near-universal praise. People loved it, sickos and casuals alike. And the players themselves seemed engaged and competitive. Anyone who has played a weekend scotch game can tell you that any golf match, no matter the stakes, can create intensity.
So would a fanless Ryder Cup be different? Of course. But it could still be a spectacle.
The Latest from The Fried Egg
The Fried Egg Podcast, Episode 182: John Bodenhamer
USGA Senior Managing Director of Championships John Bodenhamer joins the podcast this week. John and Andy talk about tournament setup, John’s history in the game of golf, running events during the pandemic, and much more! Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
Shotgun Start: Do The Match’s high ratings matter and a Jumbo Flashlight
With both hosts worse for the wear, the Part 2 Spotlight on Ernie Els is pushed to Friday. This Wednesday episode begins with some debate on the excitement over The Match’s astronomic TV ratings. Does that number matter as a proof of concept for something more or is it just indicative of a one-time windfall in a unique moment? This leads to some further debate over mic’d up players and if we’ll ever actually see that on the PGA Tour. Andy also relays a hunch about one tournament on the upcoming PGA Tour schedule perhaps not being played. The second half of the episode is devoted to Masashi “Jumbo” Ozaki. Brendan relays some notes from a day of reading and researching the Japanese legend. His dominant career on the Japan Tour is covered in depth, as well as his ambivalence to playing outside of that Tour. His flamboyant style, allegations of cheating, playing with illegal “hot” equipment, and rumors of ties to organized crime are also discussed in detail. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
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