Golf’s galleries will remain silent at least one week longer.
The PGA Tour announced Monday that the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club will no longer welcome fans on the premises, citing the “rapidly changing dynamics of the Covid-19 pandemic” as cases continue to grow throughout much of the United States.
“We applaud the leadership, diligence and partnership it took from Jack Nicklaus, Dan Sullivan, the entire Memorial Tournament staff and State, County and City leadership to build a solid plan that would allow for limited fan attendance at next week’s event,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement to media. “But given the broader challenges communities are facing due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we need to stay focused on the No. 1 priority for our Return to Golf — the health and safety of all involved.”
For months, the Memorial worked with PGA Tour and local and state officials to develop a series of protocols for allowing fans on-site for the event. The Tour even took the step of creating a second tournament at Muirfield, the Workday Open, to run the week before the Memorial and serve as a dry run for tournament staff preparing to welcome fans the following week.
At the tournament level, those protocols included reduced crowd sizes, the elimination of bleacher seats, caps on the number of fans allowed in “viewing areas” around greens and tee boxes and the construction of one-way passenger walking paths to decrease crowding. At an individual level, all attendees would be required to wear masks while on site, pass temperature screenings before entering through the gates and fill out CDC questionnaires, among other safety precautions.
Officials also acted to limit the number of those welcome on site, restricting overall capacity to some 9,000 people, or about 25 percent of Muirfield’s overall capacity. Ultimately, concern over the safety of fans and players proved paramount.
“While this was a difficult decision, it was one made collectively, and we are appreciative of the process undertaken to this point that will allow us to welcome on-site fans when the time is right,” Monahan continued. “In the meantime, we have no doubt that the Memorial Tournament will once again be an incredible championship and deliver the best competitive environment for our players and utmost entertainment to our fans around the world.”
The Tour has persisted in the early weeks of summer despite a few positive tests among players and caddies. Monahan and other Tour officials have tweaked safety procedures and urged players to continue following guidelines outlined by federal officials, even among growing concerns over the spread of the virus in much of the United States. On Friday, the United States recorded 57,718 new cases of Covid-19, the largest one-day number in the entirety of the pandemic, while new cases in Ohio have tripled in the last month (from 353 on June 6 to more than 1,300 on July 2).
Jack Nicklaus, the tournament host, acknowledged that the growing number of cases played a major role in the tournament’s decision.
“We had a good plan in place, and I could not be more proud of everyone who contributed to it,” Nicklaus said. “In the end, we have the responsibility to recognize the health and safety of the players and all who attend the Memorial Tournament.”
Muirfield Village begins hosting the first of its consecutive events Thursday. The Memorial Tournament is scheduled for July 16-19.