The U.S. Open hordes have begun their descent on Gaithersburg, so far amounting only to a pale premonition of the many thousands of vehicles expected to throng this week to parking lots at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds and Crown Farm.
The fleet of 80 buses lined up at the fairgrounds this morning began shuttling spectators to Congressional Country Club at 6 a.m. for the tournament’s opening day. By 9 a.m., roughly half of the 4,000-plus parking spots were taken as the 30th bus of the day embarked on its hour-long trip to Bethesda and back.
Tournament play doesn't tee off until Thursday; the first three days are only practice rounds for the 156 players.
"This isn’t a good idea of what we’re going to get," said Zach Adler, a manager for Country Club Services, the New Jersey-based company that has run U.S. Open parking every year but one since 1993. "The traffic that the Open brings is wild."
All told, the USGA expects a quarter-million people to attend, the bulk of whom will come Thursday through Sunday. Crown Farm—next to Rio—opens Wednesday as another satellite parking.
The tournament is sold out, but practice-round tickets are available through Wednesday. Go here for details.
That amount of traffic will hinge somewhat on the names topping the tournament leaderboard. Tiger Woods’s absence will tame the traffic somewhat, but how much of a damper is unclear. (Bloomberg News, for example, reports that ticket prices on resale websites fell 20 percent once Woods announced his withdrawal.)
But after only a few hours on Monday, the fairgrounds were already reflecting the Open’s international magnitude.
"The thing that’s amazed me the most is that people are coming from all over," said Gaithersburg resident Kevin Shea, 19, one of 400 locals hired to help run the parking lots. "I’ve heard all different accents—England, Ireland, everywhere. The number of different types of people here is crazy. It’s awesome."