Los Angeles – PGA chief executive Seth Waugh has said his organization is studying the feasibility of staging this year's Ryder Cup without fans in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Waugh told New York's WFAN radio that while a Ryder Cup without spectators was "hard to imagine," PGA officials were looking to see if the event could be held with "virtual fans."
This year's Ryder Cup — the hotly contested biennial team competition that pits the United States against Europe — is due to be held at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, from September 25-27.
Raucous, partisan crowds are integral to the spectacle of Ryder Cup competition, but COVID-19 could ensure that this year's competition takes place before empty galleries.
"It's hard to imagine one without fans," Waugh told WFAN. "We have begun to talk about whether you could create some virtual fan experience, and we're going to try to be as creative as we can.
"It's (still) to be determined, frankly, whether you could hold it without fans or not… the fans are the Ryder Cup, to a certain degree."
Europe's Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington said earlier this month the event should be scrapped if fans are ordered to stay away.
"Nobody wants to see the Ryder Cup played without the fans being there," said Harrington. "There's no doubt that it makes the tournament so much better.
"I think the common consensus now is the Ryder Cup will not be played unless the fans are there.
"Non-golfers and golfers around the world watch the Ryder Cup because of the tension that's created by the spectators."
Your news needs your support
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.