Following Augusta National’s lead, the PGA of America has announced fans will be in attendance when the PGA Championship is played on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in May. This just nine months after a fan-less PGA was played at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco last August.
In all, 10,000 fans will be allowed in the gates at Kiawah in May, which is a lot more than we have seen at recent events. In Hawaii, there were a handful at the first event of the year on the PGA Tour. In California, there were none. At the Phoenix Open a few weeks ago, there were around 5,000 fans per day, and it felt like a sea of people after so many months without them.
This decision by the PGA of America was made in conjunction with the state of South Carolina, MUSC Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’re excited to welcome spectators back to the PGA Championship this May in a way that is responsible and aligned with current South Carolina health protocols,” said PGA of America president Jim Richerson. “While we wish we could accommodate the sellout crowds who had purchased tickets, the 2021 PGA Championship will be steeped in gratitude as the best players in the world compete on the historic Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.”
The plan is for the Masters to make a similar move just six weeks from now and about a month before the PGA. Augusta National made this announcement in early January with the caveat “provided it can be done safely” included in its language. It would be surprising to see either Augusta National or the PGA of America flip the script here, so I think we can say with confidence that the first two majors of 2021 will have some contingent of fans there.
This changes the entire aura of the event, of course. The Phoenix Open, even with small numbers of folks in attendance, felt way different than the Genesis Invitational last week. And while we cannot live the alternate-universe reality of what would have happened without fans (or, in last year’s case, with them), we can confidently say that the outcome would not have been the same and likely that stars and superstars in the sport will benefit most from this news.
Kiawah is the site of Rory McIlroy’s eight-stroke romp over David Lynn, the second major of his career. It also hosted the 1991 Ryder Cup, dubbed the War by the Shore. The PGA is slated for May 20-23.