Here's a side benefit to the economic reality hitting golf these days: more U.S. Open tickets available to the public.
About 1,000 to 1,500 tickets per day to next month's U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in New York will be released for public sale, the USGA announced Monday. The tickets will come from a pool of unsold passes originally reserved for corporate hospitality packages.
The public allotment of U.S. Open tickets sold out in one day last August. But as it became apparent that companies would be purchasing fewer hospitality packages, the USGA decided to release those unused tickets to the public.
This is the first time since 1986 that public tickets have been available beyond the pre-sale, said USGA spokesman Rand
''We certainly expect that we will [sell out the tournament],'' Jerris said. ''Our switchboard operators will tell you that a lot of calls are coming in, now that people are learning that tickets are available.''
The ticket allotments will not be available via phone, however. They will be sold on-site (first-come, first-served) as part of the U.S. Open's pre-tournament merchandise sale. Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. June 11 at the U.S. Open will-call facility at Bethpage State Park on Long Island.
Prices are $40 for a practice-round ticket, $100 for a championship-round ticket and $400 for a weekly package. Practice rounds begin June 15; the tournament begins June 18.
''Obviously with the turn in the economy, it's going to be difficult to find sponsors now, so we certainly have felt it [in golf],'' defending U.S. Open champ Tiger Woods said during a conference call. ''I'm sure just like anybody. We are not immune to it.''
Woods won the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage, which to that point was the most profitable tournament in USGA history. The tournament had 77 corporate tents in 2002. This year, 54 have been sold so far, said Reg Jones, U.S. Open managing director.
When companies purchase hospitality packages, they receive a number of tickets with the option to purchase more. The USGA sets aside a percentage of tickets for corporate clients, with the remainder available to the public. The maximum number of daily tickets available is 42,500, Jerris said.
More tickets could become available, depending on future hospitality moves, Jerris said. USGA president Jim Vernon said he expects the tournament to be sold out.
''This is a chance for the USGA to share more of the action at the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black with our New York fan base,'' David Fay, USGA executive director, said in a statement. ''Since it will be a number of years until the U.S. Open returns to the New York area, we hope that New York sports fans take advantage of the opportunity to be a part of the U.S. Open experience.''
Elsewhere, the U.S. Open continues to be a sizable tournament. The USGA received a record 9,086 entries to play in the tournament, and the course will play at 7,426 yards, 212 yards longer than it did in 2002.
But Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of rules and competitions, said the course is unlikely to stretch to its full length during the tournament. It also will feature a par 5 (the 517-yard fourth hole) that will play shorter than a par 4 (the 525-yard seventh).
''We want to introduce more risk/reward, and that doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be an easier test of golf,'' Davis said. ''It simply means, where we can do it, we want to give the players a choice. Â Everybody enjoys that.''