Professional golf without fans is nothing unusual. At almost every tournament on every Tour every week, the first few groups each day have little more than family and friends tagging along. If anybody at all.
But Thursday morning at a week-to-week tournament is a very different proposition to a big-time golf event and talk that no less than the Ryder Cup might be played without spectators is confronting to say the least.
It’s one thing to send a three ball of lesser known European Tour players into the early morning mists of a Thursday alone but Woods v McIlroy for the Cup? Without fans? Unthinkable.
And yet, that is precisely what this virus has done to the world, golf included. What was unthinkable just three months ago is now not only thinkable but - in some instances - has morphed into seeming the only sensible course of action.
European Captain Padraig Harrington (pictured right) has certainly shifted from the ‘unthinkable’ camp to the ‘maybe we should’ camp in just a few short weeks.
Asked about a fan-free Ryder Cup early in April the three-time major winner was adamant.
“Nobody wants to see the Ryder Cup played without the fans being there,” he told BBC Radio.
“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.”
Fast forward three weeks and clearly something has changed.
"Everyone wants fans to be there,” Harrington told a British newspaper, “but the question is does sport need the Ryder Cup and should the Ryder Cup take one for the team? Would it be for the greater good of sport?
“It wouldn't be in the Ryder Cup's best interests, but it could be in the best interests of enough people who want to see a big sporting occasion on TV.”
That’s code for the best interests of the European Tour.
For decades the biennial matches have been a significant source of the Tour’s income and while an away fixture – such as this year’s event at Whistling Straits – returns less financially, it is not 2020 that is the major concern.
A postponed Ryder Cup would push back by a year the windfall the Europeans will already have budgeted for from staging the 2022 event in Italy.
Make no mistake about how precarious the financial position of the world’s second largest circuit really is.
Tour boss Keith Pelley pulled no punches in his communication with players three weeks ago when he flagged reduced purses and tournament infrastructure when the Tour returns.
Of more concern, though, is the furloughing of several members of the Tour staff and Pelley and other executives taking pay cuts.
While the PGA Tour will take a hit because of the virus they are starting from a vastly stronger financial position and ceasing operations remains unthinkable.
That, however, might no longer be the case for their counterparts in Europe and if it takes a Ryder Cup without fans to avoid their demise, who’s to say moving the idea to the ‘it’s the only sensible course of action’ column is the wrong way to go?