BRADENTON, Fla. – After a mostly quiet West Coast swing, the PGA Tour is slowly but surely bringing back the noise.
This week’s WGC-Workday Championship is supposed to only allow about 650 guests on-site, though if the bottlenecks on the pathways at The Concession are any indication, the actual figure is likely much higher.
Next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational is planning to allow 25% of its usual capacity – somewhere in the 5,000 range. The following week’s Players Championship will open it up even more, with 20% capacity and an expectation of about 10,000 spectators a day. The final leg of the Florida swing, the Honda Classic, is also anticipating hosting about 10,000 people a day.
“It doesn’t matter, even if there’s probably maybe one or two hundred people following our group, yeah, it’s exciting to play in front of them,” said tournament leader Brooks Koepka. “It’s definitely better than not playing with them.”
Earlier this month, the Waste Management Phoenix Open welcomed about 5,000 fans a day to what is normally the most raucous tournament on the schedule. That was the most fans allowed since the PGA Tour restarted its schedule last June.
Koepka has been among the players who mentioned how much the fan presence can affect his performance. His win in Phoenix, he said, was no coincidence – “I like feeling like you’ve got to show off in front of people,” he said.
Though still not the usual buzz and excitement, the Florida swing is slowly feeling like a return to normal – if only temporarily.
“I think I’ve started feeling that juice, feeling that focus I get from the fans, because the fans, I love them. They’ve always carried me, and I feed off of them,” said Billy Horschel, who is one shot back heading into the weekend.
At what fan capacity can they make a difference?
“I think, to me, it’s at least a couple thousand,” Horschel said. “It’s nice, the next few weeks ... it’s going to feel a little bit more normal on the golf course.”