PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The PGA Tour is slowly seeing a return of spectators to its events, and this week’s Players Championship will have the most yet, a capacity of 20% at the TPC-Sawgrass Stadium course that will equate to roughly 8,000 to 10,000 people per day.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan last week watched with interest as the Arnold Palmer Invitational played out with around 7,000 spectators per day. Masks are required, and Monahan said it remains a challenge to make all comply as part of coronavirus protocols.
“You do the best you can,” Monahan said during a news conference Tuesday. “We’re not five events into the return to fans, and we’re working closely with each one of our tournament organizations, our volunteer leadership team. We continue to stress the importance of it.
“While there are some (who did not wear masks), I’ve been encouraged by the number of people that have been wearing masks. And while I have seen some that aren’t, and we want everyone to be wearing masks and we’re going to continue to reinforce that, I like the actual progression that we’ve been on, and I think you’ll see more growth on that front this week.”
The attendance numbers are significantly less than during normal times, but spectators at Bay Hill last week seemed to congregate with the leaders and around the final holes. TPC Sawgrass typically presents a raucous scene at its finishing holes, the 16th, 17th and 18th, with an amphitheater setting that borders the 17th.
That is expected to be different, and there will be no closed hospitality venues, but it is unclear how crowds will be controlled.
“We continue to be very clear and specific as to what our expectations are,” Monahan said.
The PGA Tour will continue to have bigger crowds at the Honda Classic next week followed by the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas, and the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. The Masters will have a limited number on site.
Monahan does not foresee a requirement for spectators to have a COVID-19 vaccine for entry.
“I think that hopefully we’re getting to a point sooner rather than later where that’s not a scenario we need to mandate,” he said. “That’s the reality with the way people have responded to the opportunity to be vaccinated.”
Players continued to receive weekly COVID-19 tests as well as at-home tests the week before travel, and that will continue until a significant number of players have been vaccinated, Monahan said.
“It’s hard to determine when that will be, but clearly we see light at the end of the tunnel, and I think we’ll get to — the conversations we’re having with players and with everybody in our ecosystem have been very positive,” he said. “I think players are eager to get vaccinated and are certainly studying this.”