At least two of the three majors this year will be played without spectators.
The USGA announced Wednesday, in conjunction with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, that the U.S. Open at Winged Foot will be played without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Following months of consultation and scenario planning with local and state health officials, we have jointly decided that hosting the U.S. Open without spectators will provide the best opportunity to conduct the championship safely for all involved,” said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA. “We will miss the excitement of the fans and what their presence brings to the championship. We look forward to welcoming them again to future U.S. Opens.”
Winged Foot is located in Mamaroneck, New York, which is in Westchester County, one of the original hotspots for the virus. As recently as last month the USGA remained hopeful that the event, rescheduled for Sept. 17-20, could be played with a limited number of spectators. New York City began reopening on June 8, after being in one of the nation’s strictest lockdowns, but ultimately not enough improvement was made in order to allow a large-scale gathering.
No tournament has been played with fans on-site since the PGA Tour restarted its season in mid-June. Only this week, at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, did the Tour begin to allow a maximum of 50 sponsor guests a day at tournament sites, but those attendees don’t have access to the course or any face-to-face interaction with the competitors. It’s not yet known when fans will next be allowed at Tour events, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan said officials are “hopeful” to have spectators sometime in the “back quarter of the year.”
Next week’s PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco will be held sans spectators. Augusta National has not yet announced whether it will allow patrons for the Masters, now slated for Nov. 12-15.
The USGA had previously canceled all local and sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, citing the risk in staging events across the country. To fill out the 144-player field, the USGA will use its traditional exemption categories in addition to the top 70 in the world when the rankings were frozen; the top two finishers, not otherwise exempt, in non-major Tour events beginning at the Memorial and ending at the Wyndham Championship; the top 3 finishers from the PGA; the top five in aggregate points from the European Tour’s U.K. Swing; the top five players in the Korn Ferry Tour regular-season and Finals points standings; the top seven ranked players (not otherwise exempt) in the World Amateur Golf Ranking after the U.S. Amateur; and the Order of Merit leaders on several international tours. The OWGR ranking as of Aug. 23 will be used to determine the final few spots in the field as well as the alternate list.
Winged Foot hasn’t hosted a U.S. Open since 2006.