The Waste Management Phoenix Open will lead the way next year as the PGA Tour moves closer to allowing fans back at tournaments with “up to 8,000” fans a day planned for the popular event. What that means for other events remains to be seen.
Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said Thursday that the circuit continues to operate in a “six-to-eight-week window” when it comes to COVID-19 and evolving restrictions, but he did acknowledge that the Tour’s return to Florida in March should create new opportunities for more fans.
“It really is hard to predict at this point what that will be. We're very encouraged by the news around the vaccine and vaccine distribution and paying very close attention to what that can mean as we go into calendar year 2021,” Monahan said. “I think you'll just see a slow and steady increase in the number of fans that we have on-site, but again, we won't be the sole arbiter in that. Any steps that we take we'll be doing in concert with our partners in the local communities where we play.”
Monahan added that the Tour will not require its players or officials to be vaccinated.
"I think vaccination is a choice, and I would apply the same logic and the same amount of care to that subject as we have to every other subject, and that is to try and do our best to educate our members on vaccination and the pros and cons associated with it,'' Monahan said. "But ultimately it's an individual decision.''
A return of spectators would be good news for tournaments that have endured the financial impact of holding events without fans since the pandemic halted play this past March.
That financial impact was mitigated late last season when the Tour resumed pro-ams, which are a large source of each tournament’s budget, but the lack of fans and any associated revenue has been felt. Monahan said the Tour produced $160 million in charitable revenues last season, that’s down from $205 million during the 2018-19 season.
“Our tournaments are prepared to operate without fans and to do so on a break-even basis, which, like reserves, allows you to continue to operate and continue to move your tournament forward," Monahan said, "and we will try and be creative and innovative about additional ways to raise money to help them."