June 20, 2023 | 12:27 p.m
LOS ANGELES — When you throw a big event, you want buzz.
No one should know this better than Hollywood, which is all about the buzz.
When Los Angeles hosts the Grammy Awards or the Oscars or any of the other countless iconic pop culture events that take place in Tinseltown, they all strive for buzz, for atmosphere and electricity.
When you throw a party, you want there to be a buzz, an atmosphere.
Do you know what the atmosphere was like at the 123rd US Open last week at Los Angeles Country Club?
There were times, even in the big moments when eventual winner Wyndham Clark and major challengers Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Scottie Scheffler dueled on the back nine in the final round, when the venue was stunningly lacking in the kind of dramatic atmosphere the action had. on the golf course in demand and deserved.
For most of the week, LACC had the look and feel of a glitzy club championship, with so few people next to the ropes that it seemed the ropes weren’t even needed to keep people off the court.
The reason for this is the way the United States Golf Association allocated the tickets for the event, meaning that the tournament’s governing body did not actually allocate many tickets at all to the general public.
Most of the people who seen the tournament did so from the corporate cabins and suites that took up most of the spectator seating on the golf course as they enjoyed fancy food and cocktails.
The regular golf fans – of which there were not many because there were so few tickets available to them – were greatly outnumbered all week.
And that was a shame.
This is supposed to be the United States Open.
This week at LACC was the US Open USA Closed.
Here’s a suggestion for the USGA, starting next year when it takes the tournament to Pinehurst and then to Oakmont in 2025 and Shinnecock in ’26: Please bring the people back to the tournament.
In the future, if the USGA is really serious about “growing the game” as it claims to be, it needs to bring back the “People’s Open” as Bethpage Black has been, as Pebble Beach is when the tournament is there.
And it has nothing to do with whether the tournament is played on a public or private course. Shinnecock, Winged Foot, Olympic Club and other US Opens held at private clubs still have buzz.
Consider last year at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, one of the most exclusive clubs in the country. The place had an electric vibe all week. And it was memorably off the charts as winner Matthew Fitzpatrick fended off Will Zalatoris and Scheffler in the final round.
The LACC and its lackluster atmosphere are all at the USGA. Of course, there was a small footprint for this US Open, with the LACC seating about 22,000 spectators per day when a Bethpage can handle nearly double that. Brookline wasn’t a massive footprint either, but still delivered when it came to atmosphere.
There was no grandstand at the first tee at LACC, which is absurd. The average fan couldn’t get near the first tee, which happens to be the most atmospheric place to hang out at Ryder Cups.
You know who had a great view off the first tee?
Stan Kroenke, the owner of the LA Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche and the English Premier League’s Arsenal, among other franchises. He bought out of the LACC pro shop, which is right next to the first tee, as his personal suite. So Stan and his special people had it going for them.
The regular golf fans? Not so much.
There was a small stand just behind the 18th green, but it was for “special” ticket holders. So unless you happened to be “special”, you couldn’t get an overview of the players who finished their rounds on the 18th green.
Enough with the cool US Opens. Bring it back to the people.
It is said that of the 22,000 daily tickets, about 14,000 of them were for corporate suites, leaving about 8,000 or 9,000 tickets remaining. Of those, LACC is believed to have gotten about half of them, leaving a minimal 4,000 or 5,000 tickets for the general fan.
That’s why when Fitzpatrick hit his first professional hole-in-one Friday on the 15th hole, it was so quiet around the green that Fitzpatrick had a delayed reaction before realizing the ball went into the cup.
“I wish it would have been higher,” Fitzpatrick said. “I wish it was a few more people. I’m surprised there haven’t been as many people out as I thought this week. It’s disappointing on the USGA side. They will have a great tournament… [but] from what i heard many members bought tickets and that’s why there are so many less people.
“Hopefully it’s not the same for other US Opens going forward.”