Television viewers of the British Open were reminded throughout tournament telecasts of the unusually warm and sunny weather along the Scottish coast last week, as umbrellas were left in the bag and Muirfield was far more brown than green. According to the R&A, though, the weather may have been just a bit too warm, citing the heat wave as the reason for a dip in attendance this year at the season's third major.
The last time the Open was staged at Muirfield, in 2002, the course was visited by 160,595 fans, a week-long spectator total that resulted despite extreme rain and wind throughout Saturday's third round, which many have called the worst playing conditions ever seen at a major. Based on the 2002 total, officials expected at least 160,000 spectators this time around and had hopes of reaching 170,000; instead, despite a week of sunshine, the gate total only reached 142,036.
'More than 142,000 people attended the Open. That is almost 90 percent of the figure in 2002 and we are pleased with this attendance,' explained an Open Championship spokesman, according to Sky Sports. 'Advance ticket sales were very strong and we believe the extremely warm weather put off some of our pay-at-the-gate customers.
'That is perhaps why, unusually, we had a higher attendance on Sunday in cooler weather than we did on Friday, which is normally the busiest day,' the spokesman added, also citing a Brit winning the Tour de France cycling race and the biennial Ashes cricket match between England and Australia as other TV viewing options that potentially kept fans at home.
While organizers point to the weather, many others will cite the rising ticket prices as a more likely culprit for the dip in attendance this past week at Muirfield. Single-day tickets were listed at £75 (approx. $115), which is a £5 ($7.60) increase from a year ago and £10 ($15.25) more than the daily ticket prices in 2011.