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2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open preparing for fewer fans, venues

PGA pro Troy Merritt hits a tee shot on No. 16 during Round 1 of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

The Waste Management Phoenix Open is preparing to host fewer fans with fewer venues in 2021 because of the coronavirus.

Tournament chairman Scott Jenkins said in a statement that they hope to welcome some fans to the event at TPC Scottsdale scheduled for Feb. 1-7, 2021.

“This week, we notified our suite holders that most of the hospitality venues that create our event’s incredible tournament atmosphere will not be constructed. In light of the fact that we usually start building our venues in late September/early October, it is just not prudent to do so under the current circumstances,” Jenkins’ statement said.

“However, ‘The People’s Open’ just would not be the same without our fans, so it is our every intention to have fans at the Waste Management Phoenix Open during the week of February 1. In cooperation with Waste Management and our other partners, we are pivoting and planning an event that may have less fans and venues but will still be a world-class event that will make our community proud and support our charity partners.”

The Thunderbirds, who host the golf tournament, raised more than $14 million at last year’s event. They are working with the PGA Tour, the state and Scottsdale to continue planning for a safe event in 2021.

Last year, The Thunderbirds did not release the attendance numbers for the event, but those were projected to be above 700,000 fans for the week.

Coronavirus cases in Arizona on Wednesday reached 195,557 infections and 4,634 fatalities total, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Multiple key metrics about the severity of Arizona’s pandemic, including coronavirus-related hospitalizations, are at or near the lowest they’ve been in a month or more.

The rolling seven-day average for newly reported cases declined Tuesday to 883.29, the lowest seen since June 5, according to tracking by The Associated Press.

“Over the last five months, the world has been rocked by unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jenkins’ statement said. “As the hosts of one of the leading community-driven sporting events in the world, The Thunderbirds are doing everything in our power to continue to lead community involvement through the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the hundreds of charities that we support.

“The health and safety of the PGA TOUR professionals, sponsors, vendors, and, of course, the greatest fans in golf, is of paramount importance.”