Justin Leonard knows what it’s like to golf without fans. The 1997 British Open champion played the third round of the 2012 AT&T National without spectators due to a storm that blew through Washington D.C.
“We played without fans, and it was an odd experience,” Leonard said on The DA Show. “I think it’s one that, for the guys doing it for the first time, it was probably a little off-putting. We saw a number of guys raise their hand after making a putt. When there’s nobody there, it’s just a force of habit. But I think it’s something that the guys will get accustomed to. Hopefully we’ll have fans out [soon]. It looks like the plan is for a limited number of fans at the Memorial Tournament [in] July. But I think live sports without fans is much better than no sports at all.”
Non-golfers might not understand the importance of fans on the course. After all, most fans stay quiet, if not silent, before – and during – each swing. But fans play an important role, Leonard says, one that goes beyond noise.
“I think that the players certainly draw some energy from the fans,” said Leonard, who recorded a dozen PGA Tour wins from 1996 to 2008. “That’s what they’re used to just playing in front of: people, and just trying to elicit some positive response from them. It’s a little eerie playing without anybody because normally when there are fans, there’s a buzz and you get used to that – and now the buzz is silence. If there’s a car driving through, whether it’s for camera work or an official or things like that, you kind of hear everything. It can be a little difficult playing with it that quiet because you kind of hear every little thing – versus when there’s a buzz from the fans, maybe from other holes and things like that, you kind of become used to that as well.”