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Tour hopeful spectators' return proves a roaring success

China Daily | Updated: 2021-04-16 10:05
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Hideki Matsuyama of Japan celebrates on the 18th green after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia on April 11, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

The roars returned to the Masters. At least two of them.

There were enough spectators, believed to be roughly 8,000 a day, to at least bring some sound back to the gorgeous scenery of Augusta National in April. And they stood six-deep around the 18th green - masks on - as Hideki Matsuyama walked up the hill to a one-shot victory.

Missing was that head-turning volume, a brief burst of cheers that made spectators look around and try to figure out where it came from and what they were missing elsewhere on the course.

One of those roars was for Tommy Fleetwood making a hole-in-one on the 16th hole in the opening round. The loudest of the week was for Corey Conners making his ace on the sixth hole Saturday.

But it was progress, and that goes for the rest of golf.

Spectators in limited numbers returned this year at the Phoenix Open - compared with other years in Phoenix, that would be very limited - and have been a part of PGA Tour events ever since the circuit left California.

The next test is not so much who has spectators, but how many? And the most questions surround the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio, the first week in June.

The tournament posted on its website plans for "as safe of an experience as possible", and that it will consult on the matter with local and state governments and the tour.

Memorial organizers said they have temporarily suspended badge sales to best manage the ticketing process. Fans are asked to sign up on a waiting list and they will be contacted "should additional badges become available".

The Memorial last year had a detailed plan for spectators that had been approved by the state until it was decided 10 days before the start of the tournament there would be none. A small grandstand by the 18th hole and some concession structures were still up during the tournament.

At least some spectators would be expected everywhere else on the upcoming tour schedule.

The RBC Heritage this week has allowed 20 percent capacity at Hilton Head.

That will be followed by the Zurich Classic in Avondale, Louisiana (up to 10,000 a day), the Valspar Championship in Tampa Bay, Florida (20-30 percent capacity), the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina (maximum 30 percent capacity), the AT&T Byron Nelson in Dallas (10,000 a day), the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in South Carolina (10,000 a day) and the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas (10,000 a day).

"It's funny to think that 10,000 is going to feel like a lot of people, but after the year we just went through, it's going to feel like it," Jon Drago, the AT&T Byron Nelson tournament director, told The Dallas Morning News.

The Colonial last year was the first event back from the pandemic.

Hilton Head moved to June and the PGA Championship went from May to August. The rest of them between now and the Memorial were canceled.

Inkster, 60, signs up

Seven-time major champion and LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster has signed up for the 36-hole US Open qualifier to be held later this month. Inkster, who is 60, said she's played San Francisco's Olympic Club, site of the June 3-6 US Women's Open, about 50 times. The qualifier will be held April 26 at Half Moon Bay Golf Links outside of San Francisco.

"I'm probably an idiot for trying, but I think I would be disappointed in myself if I didn't because it's so close to home," Inkster told Golfweek on Tuesday.

Inkster made her 2021 debut last month at the Kia Classic and will play again next week at Hugel-Air Premia LA Open.

Inkster, a two-time US Women's Open winner, last played in an Open in 2014.

"I just decided, you know, what the heck," Inkster told Golfweek."If I make it, I make it; if I don't, I don't."

Agencies via Xinhua

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