THE current heatwave could have contributed to smaller crowds than expected at the Open, according to tournament organisers.
The R&A was expecting 160,000 fans at Muirfield and hoping for 170,000, but a total of ‘just’ 142,036 made the trip during to East Lothian, with 29,247 there yesterday to see Phil Mickelson lift the Claret Jug.
A total of 160,595 spectators were at Muirfield the last time the Open was staged there in 2002, with 31,422 watching Ernie Els emerge victorious on the final day following a four-man play-off.
Ticket prices of £75 have been blamed for the drop in attendance, but a spokesman for the Open Championship said: “More than 142,000 people attended the Open. That is almost 90 per cent of the figure in 2002 and we are pleased with this attendance.
“Advance ticket sales were very strong and we believe the extremely warm weather put off some of our pay-at-the-gate customers.
“That is perhaps why, unusually, we had a higher attendance on Sunday in cooler weather than we did on Friday which is normally the busiest day. The blend of a British winner of the Tour de France and Ashes cricket on television over the last few days may also have had an impact.”
More than 180,000 fans were at Lytham last year when tickets cost £70, although children under 16 are given free entry when accompanied by an adult and organisers feel the amount of play - particularly on the first two days - ensures value for money.