Why the Phoenix Open is About More Than Just Golf

It’s known as one of the most fan-friendly tournament venues on the PGA Tour.

Attending the Phoenix Open for the very first time, the Stadium Course at the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale didn’t disappoint.

The 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open began on Monday, Jan. 29 and wrapped up in dramatic playoff style on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 4.

Arriving at the course on Friday afternoon, there was plenty of buzz in the air with all the big names spotted around the course.

The field included 22 of the Top-50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Jon Rahm (2) was the highest-ranked player in the field, which featured four of the Top-5, five of the Top-10 and eleven of the Top-25 players in the world.

The top ranked players included Jordan Spieth (3), Justin Thomas (4), Hideki Matsuyama (5), Rickie Fowler (7), Marc Leishman (13), Matt Kuchar (16), Alex Noren (19), Francesco Molinari (22), Charley Hoffman (23), Patrick Reed (24), Xander Schauffele (26), Daniel Berger (31), Kevin Chappell (32), Webb Simpson (38), Si-Woo Kim (40), Tony Finau (44), Kyle Stanley (45), Phil Mickelson (46), Zach Johnson (47), Brendan Steele (48), and Russell Henley (49).

Rickie Fowler tees off on the 18th hole on Friday afternoon. Photo: Brenton Garen

The field included eight players who have combined to win 17 Major championships including Lucas Glover (1), Retief Goosen (2), Zach Johnson (2), Phil Mickelson (5), Webb Simpson (1), Jordan Spieth (3), Justin Thomas (1) and Bubba Watson (2).

The 2018 field also featured five former WM Phoenix Open champions including Matsuyama (2016, 2017), Mickelson (1996, 2005 and 2013) and Aaron Baddeley (2007), J.B. Holmes (2006, 2008) and Kyle Stanley (2012).

The main entry to the tournament drops you right at the 18th hole. And there’s no better place to let the atmosphere sink in as a first-time attendee.

Deciding to walk the course anti-clockwise, it didn’t take long to realize why this PGA tournament attracts the largest galleries of any tournament in the world.

The course was immaculate. The weather was fantastic. The excitement was intense.

If you’ve never heard of the tournament, check out this aerial photo of its most famous hole, the 16th:

The 16th hole at the Phoenix Open. Courtesy Photo

It’s gained the reputation of the most exciting hole on the PGA TOUR. And rightly so.

A huge stadium completely surrounds this par 3, with breathtaking views of the action from every seat.

“Having a big crowd out here is, it’s only better for us to have,” Rickie Fowler said on Saturday, according to Golf Digest. “Not all the people here know there’s a golf tournament going on, there’s some people here that they might be doing other things for fun. But, hey, they’re in here, they’re supporting the tournament.”

Phil Mickelson tees off on the 18th hole on Friday. Photo: Brenton Garen

The golf magazine said Fowler was irked on Thursday by catcalls on the 16th hole. However, Phil Mickelson cited the galleries as part of his Saturday success.

“It means a lot to me, it’s very helpful and very important to my success,” Mickelson said. “I think it’s been a big instrument in allowing me to get into the round and play and have fun and get out of the technical side, which is what I’ve been doing the first two weeks.”

On late Friday afternoon, I experienced the rowdiness of the 16th hole first hand, sitting just a few seats away from where Englishman Ian Poulter shanked the ball into the grandstand.

A few jovial boos ensued before someone threw the ball back to the fairway.

Ian Poulter takes a drop after shanking the ball into the stadium on the rowdy 16th hole. Photo: Brenton Garen

Poulter appeared to take the jives in jest, giving a jumping high-five to one of the spectators who was almost hit. He took a drop only a few feet away from where we were sitting.

More than 18 holes were needed to decide a champion during Sunday’s final round.

Gary Woodland found himself in the winner’s circle after besting Chez Reavie in a sudden-death playoff, tapping in for par and the victory on the first playoff hole. This is Woodland’s third PGA TOUR victory, and his first since the 2013 Barracuda Championship.

Why the Phoenix Open is About More Than Just Golf
Gary Woodland after being presented the winner’s trophy. Courtesy Photo

Woodland made birdie on three of the final four holes to enter the clubhouse as the outright leader at 18-under par.

Reavie – who teed off with the final group – entered the final three holes one shot back. Reavie overcame a bogey on 16 and was two shots off the lead with two holes to play before making birdie on 17.

The crowd who walked with the final group all day then found themselves at the 18th green to witness Reavie drain a clutch 21-foot putt to force a playoff. 

Woodland and Reavie only needed one extra hole to decide a champion. Both players left their approach shots short of the 18th green, but Reavie’s third shot came to rest outside seven feet, which opened the door for Woodland to tap in for the victory.  It was the fourth-straight PGA TOUR event ending in a playoff, and the third-straight WM Phoenix Open playoff.

Amazing winter weather and an entire city abuzz with anticipation for the 2018 event drew nearly 720,000 (719,179) fans to the tournament during the week.

In total, four attendance records were broken (Wednesday, Friday, Saturday) including the weekly total, which broke the previous record (655,434) set just last year by more than 63,000.

For more information on the tournament, visit https://wmphoenixopen.com.

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