Some PGA Tour tournaments are closing their gates to spectators for Tuesday practice rounds this year in the face of heightened security measures. But it appears the RBC Heritage won't be among the events turning away spectators.
Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot said this month there had been no discussion of closing a practice round to the public. And Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour's vice president and chief of operations, said the ultimate decision would be left to the organizations running the tournament.
The Northern Trust Open earlier this month and Farmers Insurance Open in January have closed to spectators on Tuesday.
Pazder said the Tour has found instances this season where it has made sense to close a practice round, citing a cost-benefit analysis. Security, uniformed police officers and resting volunteers are all factors, he said.
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"And then in some cases, opening on Tuesday is kind of a flat opening," Pazder said after speaking at RBC Heritage Media Day on Monday. "Not many people come out to the golf course, and we prefer to have that big opening on Wednesday for the pro-am when there are scheduled tee times, and you know you're going to come because you know if you're on the first tee at noon, you're going to see Graeme McDowell."
The Heritage Classic Foundation announced stricter security measures this month that limit the size of bags that are brought to the course by spectators and require security personnel to "wand" all spectators before they enter. The new PGA Tour policies were first announced in October, in response to events such as the Boston Marathon bombings in April and heightened security requirements in other sports venues, Wilmot said.
And a golf event is more difficult to secure than a football game, Pazder said.
"Our arena is 150 acres," he said. "The Seattle Seahawks secure an 80,000-seat stadium -- there is a door in and a door out. It'd be easier to secure than a place like Harbour Town that's got a million and a half ways to get on the golf course. So our obligation is having a security program that provides as safe an environment as possible."
LOVE, GAY AMONG NEW COMMITMENTS
Past champions Davis Love III and Brain Gay, along with David Toms and amateur Matt Fitzpatrick, have committed to compete at the 46th annual RBC Heritage.
Love has won a record five times at the Harbour Town Golf Links. He was only 23-years-old when he won his first in 1987 making him the youngest champion.
The North Carolina graduate has earned 15 additional wins on the PGA Tour since turning pro in 1985. The Sea Island, Ga. resident competed at Harbour Town for 26 years before injuries forced him to sit out the last two years. He has earned more than any other golfer at the RBC Heritage -- more than $2.6 million.
Gay won the 2009 RBC Heritage by a record 10 strokes, topping Davis Love III's seven-stroke win in 1998. His 20-under 264 total broke Loren Roberts' previous tournament scoring record of 19-under in 1996.
He has won five times on the PGA Tour, most recently at the 2013 Humana Challenge.
Toms has 13 wins on the PGA Tour including the 2001 PGA Championship. He has been a member of four Presidents Cup teams and three Ryder Cup teams. This wil be his fifth RBC Heritage appearance.
Fitzpatrick earned his spot at the RBC Heritage by winning the 2013 U.S. Amateur. The 19-year-old Englishman withdrew from Northeastern University last month to dedicate 100 percent of his time to golf. The world's No. 1 amateur will also be competing in The Masters, the U.S. Open and the Open Championship.
According to Wilmot, spots in both of this year's Pro-Ams have been sold out.
Daily tickets and weeklong badges for this year's tournament are now on sale online at www.rbcheritage.com or by calling the tournament office at 843-671-2448.
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