TURNBERRY, Scotland -- If you’re watching on TV, you may be wondering why the grandstands at the Open Championship are only half-filled. That’s because attendance is down sharply from last year -- 23,500 for today’s opening round versus 36,500 for the rain-lashed first round at Royal Birkdale. “But remember,” an R&A clerk just told me, “we’re in the middle of nowhere.”
That’s one way of saying that Turnberry, with the most magnificent scenery of all the Open links courses, is underserved by hotels, restaurants, and roads.
But there’s a second explanation for the empty seats. Today’s mild temperatures and mostly sunny skies have lured many fans to the tented village, where they can follow the golf on a giant screen while sipping lagers and licking ice creams. One suntanned Brit, hustling off to see what’s happening at the 17th green, shouted back to his mates: “Mind my place!” His pals didn’t seem to hear him. They were watching Ernie Els finish his round on the big telly when a young lady snuck up from behind and dragged the empty lawn chair into the shade of a nearby umbrella. (Photos: John Garrity/SI)