The 149th Open: R&A hopeful of ‘up to 75 percent’ capacity crowd at Royal St George’s this July

Organisers of July’s Open Championship are optimistic the tournament will be able to operate at up to 75 per cent crowd capacity for this year’s contest at Royal St George’s.

The R&A are awaiting updates from the government next month before confirming how many fans will be allowed through the gates in Sandwich, which would usually accommodate 40,000 people on a single championship day.

Unlike last year the event will go ahead but the number of spectators – all of whom would currently be expected to wear masks while on the property – has yet to be determined.

“We would like to provide certainty on how The Open will work but there remains great uncertainty,” said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers. “The one thing I am clear about is we will play The Open at Royal St George’s. Uncertainty is about what the environment will be we will operate in.

“There are multiple plans and multiple options. We are optimistic for a significant attendance of up to 75 per cent of capacity. We don’t want to get ahead of public health and government policy. We are retaining as much optionality as we can until the rules become clear.”

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The coronavirus pandemic prompted the R&A to postpone the 149th staging of the event rather than try to press ahead without spectators, giving Shane Lowry an extra year with the Claret Jug after his victory at Royal Portrush in 2019.

“I was disappointed at the start but I am going to get the upside of defending in front of a few people this year,” Lowry said. “Selfishly, the way everything happened last year I wasn’t able to go to the Irish Open or play in front of crowds as the Open champion.

“But I didn’t pack the trophy away in July and say ‘That’s my year over’. Just to have it for that length of time and be able to share it with friends and family was incredible.

“It has been sent back to be straightened once, yes. I noticed as it was going through the airport scanner it had a little dent on it – but I talked to Zach Johnson [the 2015 champion] and he said he also bent it.

“I can assure you it is in good shape and will come back nice and shiny. It will be a sad time giving it back but hopefully I get it back in the future. And I will prefer going back to defend my title with crowds as opposed to playing last year with no crowds.”

Watch The 149th Open live from July 15-18 on Sky Sports’ dedicated channel – Sky Sports The Open!

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