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Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits postponed to 2021

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Miami (AFP)

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.

A planned 2021 Presidents Cup between a US squad and a non-European internationals team 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 by 17 1/2 - 10 1/2.

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.

"Unlike other major sporting events that are played in existing stadiums, we had to make a decision now about building facilities to host the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits," PGA of America chief executive officer Seth Waugh said.

"It became clear that as of today, 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. Given that uncertainty, we knew rescheduling was the right call."

World number one Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and fellow four-time major champion Brooks Koepka of the United States were among the top players who did not want to see a Ryder Cup staged without fans, whose passionate cheers, songs and shouts create a unique atmosphere at Cup matches.

US captain Steve Stricker and Europe counterpart Padraig Harrington agreed they did not want to see 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."

COVID-19 cases continue to soar across the United States and even if a limited number of fans were allowed on the course, travel restrictions could still be a factor for those wanting to come from Europe.

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