PGA Masters to admit fans, but what about the rest of the season?

PGA Players and golf fans are excited that spectators will be back for the Masters in April 2021, but the rest of the tour is looking at making decisions about fans week by week.

Earlier this week the Augusta National Golf Club announced that a “limited number of patrons” will be allowed at the Masters tournament that takes place April 11-14, which was a welcome move applauded by fans of the game as well as PGA players who are eager for the fun atmosphere that golf spectators enhance.

Note that the statement from Augusta National also added a caveat if the pandemic situation changes for the worse locally: “provided it can be done safely.”

“We miss the fans out here every week,” said Cameron Smith—this year’s runner up and the first golfer in the Masters’ history to score all four rounds in the 60’s (67-68-69-69)—when the announcement was made on Tuesday, via Gulf Times. “I feel as though the atmosphere around there was obviously down this year.

“It’s such a unique place in that you can hear everything that’s going on throughout whole course. I think if we get a few out there, it will definitely make a difference.”

COVID-19 safety precautions will be in place for the major tournament, part of the 6-majors “super-season” with two of the majors being rescheduled into a robust, comeback 2020-2021 season that began with the U.S. Open practically starting it out (back in September 2020). It seems like yesterday that Dustin Johnson won the Masters with a record 20 under par score (last November), and it’s a bonus that golf fans get to preparing for another Masters already in just a few short months.

“It’s obviously encouraging,” said 23-year-old Colin Morikawa, who secured his first major last August, the PGA Championship. The young golf sensation is hoping that the announcement about the Masters will spur similar decision-making from the other tournaments. “I think all these tournaments are going to start bringing fans back, whether it’s limited capacity or a certain amount per day.”

But before the Masters is the next major, the Players Championship. Although the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium tournament is also planning to “host a limited number of ticketed spectators and guests” during the tournament taking place March 11-14, officials are staying cautious as they continue to monitor the COVID situation in Florida. Don’t be surprised if they decide to place greater limits on patron numbers than the Masters. A final determination will be made as we get closer to the date.

And what does the rest of the season look like?

January PGA events

Although last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii, allowed a limited number of spectators, this week’s Sony Open is not following suit in Honolulu, a decision that was made last November.

When the Tour moves to the States, both California tournaments—American Express Championships in La Quinta and the Farmers Insurance at gorgeous Torrey Pines—will be fanless. Further changes at La Quinta include cutting the pro-am rounds that play simultaneously during the tournament, shifting to play on just Wednesday.

February will bring fans back, but not to every event

The big welcome back for fans will take place at the Waste Management tourney in Scottsdale, AZ, at the outset of February. The largest attended event on the PGA schedule, Waste Management is also placing limits, to the tune of 5,000 fans a day. That sounds like a lot of people—in a state where COVID cases are rising—but considering that the tournament saw approximately 700,000 spectators in 2018, 5,000 or less is a massive reduction. Still, to have that amount of fans back for any PGA event is sure to be a welcome sign for the Tour. It will be the largest on-site audience since the halt of the tour, when the second round of The Players was canceled last March 2020, when roughly 25,000 fans were on hand for the first round.

The second half of the CA section of the PGA winter will remain fanless, with both the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles not admitting fans.

The big change on the February calendar is the move of the World Golf Championships—the WGC-Mexico Championship—temporarily to Bradenton, Florida for 2021 only, because of COVID restrictions blocking the allowance of fans. The event’s sponsor, Grupo Salinas, asked for the change to the Concession Golf Club, which will not allow general admission attendees, but will allow Concession members and guests.

March in Florida

The WGC at Concession will kickstart the Florida four-week leg with the Arnold Palmer Invitational (Mar 4-7 in Orlando), The Players Championship (Mar 11-14 in Ponte Vedra) and the Honda Classic (Mar 18-21 in Palm Beach Gardens). The Arnold Palmer is still finalizing details on fan allowance, and The Players is expected to announce their status on spectators late January. The Honda Classic posted an announcement this week on its web site that it “plans to welcome spectators once again,” but also noted that “daily attendance will be limited.” The attendance limit will be announced at a later date.

Anything after that is hard to pin down at the moment.  Some of the tournaments have committed to spectator inclusion, but much of the PGA Tour is still very much up in the air. This is what we know so far. We will post information about the tournament schedule as see changes and updates posted. You can check the full tournament schedule here.

In the meantime, the Sony Open continues into the pivotal third and fourth rounds this weekend, viewable on the Golf Channel.