This year's Ryder Cup golf showdown between Europe and the United States was postponed to 2021 on Wednesday, becoming the latest major sports event disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The PGA of America, Ryder Cup Europe and the US PGA Tour announced the 43rd edition of the biennial matches, which had been set for Whistling Straits in Wisconsin on September 25-27, will instead be staged on September 24-26, 2021.
Safety concerns rose as COVID-19 cases continue to soar across the United States and no one involved wanted to stage a Ryder Cup without the passionate crowds whose cheers and songs animate an atmosphere unique in golf.
"As disappointing as this is, our mandate to do all we can to safeguard public health is what matters most," PGA of America chief executive officer Seth Waugh said.
"The spectators who support both the US and European sides are what make the Ryder Cup such a unique and compelling event and playing without them was not a realistic option."
A planned 2021 Presidents Cup between a US squad and the non-European Internationals team at Quail Hollow will be delayed until September 22-25, 2022, with a Ryder Cup in Rome pushed back a year to 2023.
The postponement is the first for the Ryder Cup since 2001, when September 11 terrorist attacks upon New York and Washington prompted the matches to be delayed a year. The Cup also went unplayed from 1939-1945 due to World War II.
Holders Europe will keep for another year the trophy won in France in 2018.
The worldwide COVID-19 outbreak has prevented spectators from attending golf events, including US PGA Tour tournaments, after its return in June from a three-month shutdown.
Guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state and local officials prompted the decision, with health considerations the top priority.
"Our medical experts and the public authorities in Wisconsin could not give us certainty that conducting an event responsibly with thousands of spectators in September would be possible," Waugh said. "Given that uncertainty, we knew rescheduling was the right call."
- 'Right thing to do' -
World number one Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and fellow four-time major champion Brooks Koepka of the United States were among top players who did not want a Ryder Cup without fans.
"We considered all options, including playing with a limited attendance, but all our stakeholders agreed this would dilute the magic of this great occasion," Europe's Ryder Cup director Guy Kinnings said.
US captain Steve Stricker and Europe counterpart Padraig Harrington agreed it would be better to wait than stage a Ryder Cup without spectators.
"When you think of the Ryder Cup, you think of the distinctive atmosphere generated by the spectators, such as around the first tee at Le Golf National two years' ago," Harrington said.
"If that cannot be responsibly recreated at Whistling Straits in September, then it is correct that we all wait until it can be."
Stricker, a Wisconsin native, agreed, saying, "While it is disappointing the Ryder Cup won't be played this year, the decision to reschedule is the right thing to do under the circumstances. Now we have the opportunity to showcase the event as it was meant to be seen."
Both sides will examine how rosters will be assembled, with Europe's qualifying process frozen until January 2021, Harrington saying golfers should not feel extra pressure to play now given COVID-19 issues.
The return to odd-numbered years means Bethpage Black near New York will host in 2025 and the 100th anniversary edition of the Ryder Cup will be played at Ireland's Adare Manor in 2027.
The Presidents Cup change means the US PGA's Wells Fargo Championship will be played next year at Quail Hollow but move to TPC Potomac in suburban Washington DC in 2022 while the team event is played at the Charlotte, North Carolina, layout.
The British Open, originally scheduled for next week at Royal St. George's, was called off due to COVID-19.
The Masters was rescheduled from April to November while the PGA Championship switched from May to August and the US Open moved from June to September.
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