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PGA Championship to cap fan attendance at 10,000 a day in return to Kiawah's Ocean Course

A little more than six months ago, the PGA Championship was held at Harding Park in San Francisco with no spectators on site due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

They were missed.

“You miss the positivity, the energy,” said pro golfer Martin Kaymer.

“I actually miss playing in front of fans because you obviously work off that, especially in a major championship," said fellow pro Jason Day said. "Usually it’s buzzing, and it happens from Monday all the way through to Sunday. There’s a big buzz going around the golf course."

The world's best players will be happy to know that there will be fans on site when the PGA Championship returns to Kiawah Island and the Ocean Course in May.

The PGA of America has announced that there will be limited attendance at the PGA Championship May 17-23 at the Ocean Course. About 10,000 fans per day will be allowed to walk the fairways next to the Atlantic Ocean as 2020 champion Collin Morikawa tries to retain the Wannamaker Trophy he won last August at Harding Park.

The 10,000-fan daily figure is down from the estimated 30,000 per day the Ocean Course entertained in 2012, when Rory McIlroy won the PGA Championship. And it's well below what could have been; tickets for the 2021 tournament, one of golf's four major championships, sold out in 10 days when they went on sale. 

But for PGA Championship director Ryan Ogle, having any spectators on site at all is a victory.

"It's exciting that we are able to have spectators," Ogle said. "You look at the 2020 championship without spectators, even though it was a great championship and a great champion, to be able to have spectators is a win.

"It will be less than what we hoped for and what the community had committed to, but first and foremost, we are excited to have spectators in the current environment, whether it's 10,000, or whatever the number is."

The decision to limit attendance to 10,000 fans daily was made in coordination with the state of South Carolina, officials at MUSC Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the PGA of America said.

"The present reality, which requires limited spectators on-site will not change our objective, which as always is to deliver yet another compelling PGA Championship,” said Seth Waugh, PGA of America CEO. “The Ocean Course and its wide range of on-course conditions and circumstances will provide the world’s best players with a challenging-but-fair test of golf. Kiawah as a venue has proven to always provide both huge enthusiasm and great theater. We can’t wait to see how the drama will play out yet again this May.”

Ticket holders will be notified of their status via email, the PGA of America said. Tickets will be allocated based on several factors, it said, including the purchaser's original registration group, time of purchase and the daily inventory available.

Essentially, those who bought early are more likely to receive tickets.

"There are a lot of challenges as we look to reduce the number of spectators," Ogle said. "We will be emailing our spectators directly to let them know what to expect, based on date of purchase and daily inventory. We felt that was the most equitable way to do it, based on those who signed up early and purchased early."

Fans who do attend will be required to follow COVID-19 protocols, including wearing face coverings (even if they've had a vaccine) and observing social distancing and sanitation guidelines. There will be no grandstands and no signing of autographs during the tournament. 

"We've been working with our medical services provider, MUSC Health, and they have been fantastic with helping us," Ogle said. "We've adopted their plans to make sure we are hosting this championship responsibly, because that's our No. 1 focus — how do we do this the right way while also producing a compelling major championship."

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC

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