I’m all for having the Ryder Cup this year, even if it has to be behind closed doors. I think it will be a unique experience and will hopefully only happen once.
You can’t push everything into 2021 because it makes a mess of that year as well. There are no guarantees that Covid is going away and things will be back to normal by then, anyway. The more events you push back, the more precarious things will be if there is any more drama a little further down the road.
For me, if there’s an opportunity to play then we need to embrace it. I know the Ryder Cup is about fans, and there’s no doubt the players draw off the energy of the crowd, but millions and millions more watch it on TV. If it’s interesting and intriguing to a TV audience, then I think it’s valid to go and play.
If it goes ahead, we have to embrace it. Looking Tiger Woods or any of the other guys in the eye on the first tee, and it’s me versus you, with no hullabaloo, might actually increase the intensity in the matches. There’s nowhere to hide, there’s no extra stuff going on, it’s man on man and you’ve got to play for your country or continent and give it 100 per cent. I think it would feel as intense eyeball to eyeball as it would in front of thousands of people. We’re all competitors and we don’t want to lose. When you look at that guy across the first tee, you’re going to want your point as much then as you would with fans. The intensity as a competitor is going to be there.
Having said that, we’d all miss the first tee atmosphere. We don’t have anything to compare it to in golf – it’s so incredible. We get up early at 5am on the Friday and you’re already starting to hear the first tee bubbling away. The anticipation is insane – and that will be missed, even as the away team. The banter is great, and the Americans have gotten a lot better. It used to be just ‘USA! USA! USA!’ but they’ve upped their game and had groups of fans that have brought more in from other sports. It’s a lot of fun to compete and perform in front of them and a lot of the American crowds know us now because we play so much golf in the States.
Home advantage has been a very powerful driver in the Ryder Cup over the last 10 or 15 years. Medinah is the only away win since 2004 and we were getting absolutely thrashed for two-thirds of the competition – if it weren’t for a miraculous Sunday, that match was going with the home team as well. But I believe it’s more to do with course set-up than the crowds. The PGA of America generally sets the course up how they like it with not much rough and with firm, fast greens. In Europe, we set it up more how we like it, which is a bit tighter, with a bit more rough and slightly slower greens. The Americans will still try and get home advantage with the Whistling Straits set-up, even without any crowds.
Whatever happens with the Ryder Cup, it’s very exciting to be playing competitive golf again. I feel like we’ve been in lockdown forever, but then all of a sudden, the return to playing competitive golf was here.
I felt like I really switched off from competitive golf for a couple of months and the final two or three-week run-in to the return of the PGA Tour has gone really fast and it’s been like cramming for an exam. You’re trying to make sure all parts of your game are sharpening up and spending more time playing instead of just hitting on the range. You’re trying to get out on the golf course and make your practice more functional.
In terms of this season, I’m 200-and-something in the FedEx Cup so I almost have no expectations, but I feel like I can play well. That’s the exciting thing. I’m going to focus on the major championships and then, if I start getting hot and win a couple of times, all the points lists take care of themselves. I’m excited to go and compete and see if I can see the benefit from the hard work I’ve put in.
The majority of us are going to feel motivated to get back out and compete, whether that’s with or without crowds.