The Players will have only 20% of usual attendance due to coronavirus concerns

Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass (WJXT)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – In December, The Players announced that the tournament would be played in 2021, but with fewer fans on the course. Now we know how much.

Jared Rice, the executive director of The Players, said Monday that tickets would be limited to 20% of the maximum capacity — a number he declined to share.

“As part of that, we’re going to ask a lot of this community and ask for the greater good,” Rice said. “Whether that’s how we enjoy the tournament and some of the steps we will take to do it. This is our story. This is how this community can rally and host a tournament of this magnitude and do it in a very safe way. I know we’re up to it.”

The course will include fewer buildings onsite, as well as fewer chalets and stands for spectators. That’s because tickets will be limited. Overall, the tournament won’t have as big a footprint, so that will mean less of an economic boost to businesses in Ponte Vedra and nearby beaches. The Tour is exploring some new ways to engage with fans, both locally and around the world, but it hasn’t released the specifics.

The tournament is scheduled to tee off on March 11.

“Health and safety is the priority. We want to do everything we do out here with a priority. Contactless entry and commerce throughout the golf course. Masks will be required to be worn. We’ll also see some modifications to our hospitality programs. You’ll see a lot of commentary about three Ws: wear a mask wash your hands and watch your distance.”

Rice said the Tour is working with a number of partners to create new opportunities to engage with the tournament, even if fans can’t attend.

“Over the course of the next 40 or so days, we’re going to be bringing out specific programs about how we’re working with restaurant partners in terms of socially distanced watch parties, how we’re working with marketing partners for watch-at-home kits,” Rice said. “Go play golf and then enjoy some time at the 19th hole watching the tournament and following it on digital and social (platforms).”

The Players was the first event on the PGA Tour to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. After completing the first round of the tournament, officials announced that the second round would be played without fans in attendance, then took it a step further, canceling the tournament’s final three rounds.

Since then, there have been more than 10 months of lessons to be learned from the world of golf, the wider sports world, and other entertainment and political events. But the foundation of this year’s plan really started on Thursday of last year’s event.

“(We) really build a framework of how we could operate the tournament with no fans. We were prepared to do that on Friday of tournament week,” Rice said. “That really began a process for how we came back as a tour. There is DNA of how we addressed that situation here last year, in terms of the tour’s return to golf. Of course, we have learned along the way.”

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Cole joined News4Jax full-time in January 2017, but he has been a part of the team since he began filling in as a sports anchor in 2005.