GULLANE, Scotland – The weather at Muirfield has been ideal, exposure for the Open Championship is higher than ever before, yet attendance figures are down compared with the last time the event was held on these storied links 11 years ago.
Numbers released by the R&A show that there were more people here during the practice days than in 2002, but both Thursday and Friday have seen significantly less galleries.
Practice rounds in 2002 had 30,862 people compared with 31,320 this year, Thursday had 30,620 people in ’02 compared with 23,393 this year and Friday saw 34,479 people enter the gates 11 years ago compared with 29,144 this year.
“We know that the championship will inspire participation by local people, both young and old, in the sport,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said earlier in the week. “We’re expecting a total crowd of 160,000, and hoping for 170,000 over the week.”
Theories abound about why this has been an issue. The one most often heard surrounds increasing ticket prices. A daily ticket is £5 (roughly $7.60) more than last year and £10 ($15.25) more than 2011.