Booze, cheering, jeering, claustrophobia, and more booze. The wildest week on the PGA Tour is here, “The Greatest Show on Grass,” The Waste Management Phoenix Open. What started off as some college kids gathering around a short hole, has now turned into a marketing machine with a lot of excitement sprinkled with some cringe worthy moments.
The PGA Tour knows what it has with TPC Scottsdale and The Waste Management Phoenix Open. It’s a money juggernaut. Each year on tour, The Phoenix Open brings, by far, the most visitors per year. That translates into money for the PGA Tour, Waste Management, and the many charities associated with the event like the Thunderbirds.
The highlight of the tournament is always the 16th hole. That’s where everyone gathers, drinks, gets swag, cheers, and jeers. Gone are people sitting on grass mounds. Those have been replaced with more than 280 suits surrounding the amphitheater. Some players embrace it. Others panic and fold under the pressure.Embed from Getty Images
Many golfers bring swag to throw to the crowds. Players, such as Jon Rahm will put on football jerseys for the hole. Padraig Harrington kicked footballs into the stands. You name it, it happened there. There used to be caddy races until one caddy got injured and the PGA Tour put an end to that. Those were actually fun to watch! Bring them back!
Until now, there hasn’t been any major incident that has happened at the 16th. People have been arrested. People have been kicked out, like the time Chris DiMarco had a spectator sent away because he said “Noonan,” during a putt. There was another incident, not at the 16th hole, where there was a spectator heckling Tiger Woods. The spectator was incessant. He was drunk. He was carrying a gun. To put it lightly, that’s a scary situation. Tiger didn’t return to the event after the incident until 2018.
With more than 600,000 attending The Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2016, there is a lot of people coming in and out. As the crowds grow, it’s looking like the attendees record will be broken in 2019, the possibility of something tragic increases. It’s only a matter of time until something happens that will have to curb the party on the 16th. While it’s an amazing setting, the PGA Tour needs to be careful toeing the delicate like of excitement and the safety of everyone. All it takes is one idiot to cause a tidal wave.
There is much talk about if the 16th is good or bad for the PGA Tour. People wonder if the game of etiquette should be embracing the rowdiness of 16th at TPC Scottsdale. Is that something the Tour should embrace. With all of the rowdiness on the 16th, the crowd is relatively respectful when a player is making a stroke. More so than many other tournaments on tour.
Should there be more holes like the 16th at the TPC Scottsdale on the PGA Tour’s schedule? Maybe. There are already a few holes that are trying to emulate it, like at PGA National and The Honda Classic. They haven’t reached the level of the 16th. They may not be able to logistically. Consider it 16th lite. That is acceptable. Week after week having a hole like the 16th, probably not a good idea. A couple times a year, as long as safety of everyone takes priority over everything, it may not be a bad idea. It’ll bring in more spectators to an event than can benefit from an influx of people.Embed from Getty Images