U.S. Open crowds limited despite California reopening

PGA: U.S. Open - Practice Round
Jun 16, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; A detailed view of a tee box marker during a practice round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO, Calif., June 16 (Reuters) - U.S. Open attendance is expected to top out at about 13,000 each day, barely 25% of the numbers at Torrey Pines when it previously hosted the tournament in 2008, the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) said on Wednesday's championship eve.

This is despite the fact that California on Tuesday lifted most coronavirus curbs on crowd gatherings.

State health officials had previously told the USGA that off-site parking areas for fans had to be within a 15-minute bus ride of the course.

Given limited availability of nearby parking and uncertainty over when restrictions would be lifted, this made it near impossible for the USGA to plan for the sort of crowds that attended Torrey Pines 13 years ago.

USGA championship director John Bodenhamer said paid ticket sales were between 8,000-10,000 a day, with just under 3,000 workers too.

"So somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000-13,000 will be on the grounds every day," he told a news conference.

"It's probably one fourth of what we had last time, but I guarantee you, if you're here on site, it's going to be an amazing experience."

Even if the gallery roars at the Pacific Ocean clifftop course are not quite as loud as when Tiger Woods famously won 13 years ago, they will nonetheless be a welcome change from the funereal silence at last year's Open.

That championship at Winged Foot in New York won by Bryson DeChambeau was played in front of no paying gallery.

Indeed, all three major championships in the United States last year were contested without paying fans, while the British Open was cancelled altogether.

There has been a return to normality this year, with a limited unannounced attendance at the Masters and daily crowds at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island last month officially capped at 10,000 but seemingly higher in reality.

Next month's British Open at Royal St. George's in Kent is expected to have large galleries, though still probably slightly smaller than normal.

As for this week, the USGA's Bodenhamer was enthusiastic.

"What our team has done and the City of San Diego and Torrey Pines have done to create this atmosphere and what is built here is really a testament to what's happened the last two or three weeks," he said.

Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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