There is nothing else quite like the Waste Management Phoenix Open in the world of golf. The tournament attracts more spectators through the door than most major championships and is known as much for the quality of the golf as for the rowdiness of the huge crowds.
Any player sampling the atmosphere of the Phoenix Open for the first time should do themselves a favour and bend Bubba Watson’s ear for a few minutes. He is a veteran of this tournament who has had many good results around the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale and looks a good price to win at 30/1 with Ladbrokes.
Golf courses always look different when they are dressed for a professional tournament but few go through as big a change as TPC Scottsdale. The 7,261 yard, par 72 layout is a classy course when played by its members all year round but it really comes alive around the Phoenix Open.
Originally designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish with further work carried out by Weiskopf in 2014, the Stadium Course was designed to provide drama and give fans great viewing areas around the greens and tees. Nobody could have envisaged the temporary seating and corporate boxes that are now used around many of the holes on the back nine though.
The pick of the holes is the 16th. Raised seating surrounds the short par three leading to its nickname ‘The Coliseum’. It’s a straightforward hole without the thousands of noisy fans but when the grandstands are full is transforms into one of the most intimidating tee shots in professional golf.
|Stadium Course, TPC Scottsdale||Phoenix, Arizona||7,261 Yards||$7,300,000|
Winning the Phoenix Open is as much about displaying mental fortitude as it is about hitting good golf shots. Not only do the players have to cope with the enormous crowds but they also have to deal with a real risk and reward golf course. Before winning in 2019, Rickie Fowler came close on a number of occasions but fell short as he made mistakes whilst trying to press home on the back nine on Sunday.
It’s not just big characters like Fowler who can thrive here. Hideki Matsuyama is a fairly quiet, introverted man but he showed that it is possible to put the distractions of the crowd to one side and focus on your game with his back to back wins in 2016 and 2017.
It’s well worth noting that one of the goals of the Stadium Course was that it would provide close finishes. That’s certainly been the case recently with three playoffs in the last five renewals.
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2019||Rickie Fowler||-17||2 Strokes|
|2015||Brooks Koepka||-15||1 Stroke|
Analysis: Risk Takers and Ball Strikers to Contend
The back nine at the Stadium Course gives players who are in need of something special the chance to go on a real birdie run through the field. Nobody wants to be in that position though, they want to be sitting pretty at the top of the leaderboard having plotted their way around the course, scoring steadily over the tournament.
Scoring well is predicated on hammering the ball a long way off the tee (driving distance trumps accuracy considerably) and hitting top class approach shots into the greens. The greens have had plenty of time to settle in so they are predictable and fairly easy to read once safely aboard. It’s hitting a high percentage of them in regulation and specifically ranking well in terms of proximity to the hole that will really separate those at the top of the leaderboard from the rest.
Bubba Coming Good for His Usual Strong Display in Phoenix
It’s fair to say that the Phoenix Open is not for everybody. Many players have competed in the event, drawn in by the number of fans and unique atmosphere, only to find that it is not somewhere they enjoyed playing. On the flip side, there are a number of players who circle this in the calendar as soon as the PGA Tour schedule is released.
Despite never winning the Phoenix Open, Bubba Watson is firmly in the group of players who love the event. He has no problem playing up to the crowd, taking risks off the tee and hitting towering iron shots into the greens. That combination has seen him earn a lot of money at TPC Scottsdale and this could finally be the year that he puts it all together to win.
Watson’s usual enthusiasm for the Phoenix Open only increased after his sixth place finish in the Farmers Insurance Open last week. Pretty much every aspect of his game appeared to be in good working order in California and it’s all systems go for another big week in Phoenix.
Im’s Aggression Can Pay Off
Sungjae Im enjoyed his first taste of the Phoenix Open last year. He didn’t quite have his best stuff on the greens which stopped him from ever really being a factor in the race for the title but he left Phoenix believing that his game is well suited to the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale.
Im has earned many fans in his relatively short time on the PGA Tour. He’s not the sort of player to back down from a challenge and his aggressive approach play should be a major positive for him this year. Last year’s PGA Tour Rookie of the Year is working as hard as ever to claim his maiden win on tour. Could it come this week at odds of 35/1 with Coral?
Final Verdict: Bubba Watson to Win
As ever, there is a high class field heading to TPC Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Some will be tasting the unique atmosphere of this tournament for the first time but for Bubba Watson it’s an event that he knows very well. He loves playing on the Stadium Course and can finally earn the win his play over the years has deserved at 30/1 with Ladbrokes.
About the Waste Management Phoenix Open
Just look at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It has grown from a fairly run of the mill PGA Tour event to one of the best known and well regarded tournaments in all of golf and it’s all down to the fans.
Half a million fans is the minimum number who head to the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale every year. That is facilitated by the nature of the course and the large amount of seating temporarily erected for each renewal. Allowing so many fans onto the course and giving them plenty to do as well as the golf (and plenty of places to get refreshments) has led to the development of an atmosphere unique to golf. If you thought the Ryder Cup could get lively, try a trip to Phoenix some time!
Subject to where you choose to view from, a day at the Phoenix Open can sometimes feel more like attending a football match than a golf tournament. It has become known as ‘The Greatest Show on Grass’ and #ThePeoplesOpen and is the sort of event that inspires envy in organisers of sporting events everywhere. With golfing authorities always looking at how to attract new fans, it seems this tournament may well provide the answer.
Aggregate Attendances at the Phoenix Open
In 2019, the organisers deciding against releasing attendance records. Event organiser Chance Cozby explained, “We understand that we have the biggest event on the PGA Tour. When you look out there, you know the attendance is big. But it’s just something that we don’t want to focus on going forward.”
The Tale of 16 Through Two Holes in One
No hole at TPC Scottsdale better reflects the mood and atmosphere of the Phoenix Open than the 16th. On the card, there’s nothing daunting about the 16th. The par three is the shortest hole on the course and isn’t troubling from the tee with only a handful of bunkers and run off areas offering protection to a relatively straightforward green. The difficulty of 16 does not come from the hole itself, rather from what surrounds it.
This is the only fully enclosed golf hole in the world. That is to say, the entirety of the hole is surrounded by a stadium capable of holding 16,000 fans. Some of those fans are fortunate enough to enjoy the large corporate hospitality that’s available but the majority must get to TPC Scottsdale in the wee hours of the morning and make a mad dash for 16 when the gates open to take their place at a truly unique hole, known as “The Coliseum”, for obvious reasons.
Broadcasters and the event organisers have worked in tandem to build the legend of 16, including a decibel reader for the boos and cheers that follow each tee shot. That noise has never been louder than in 2015 when Francesco Molinari hit a hole in one having pitched the ball perfectly to the right of the pin an allowing a combination of spin and slope to feed the ball into the hole.
Every one of the thousands of fans in attendance went mad, cheering, screaming and even throwing their empty plastic beer glasses onto the hole. Molinari’s ace has been added to the legend of 16 but even that is not the hole’s most famous ace.
Back in 1997, before the seating was put in and the fans would simply congregate on the mounds that surrounded the 16th green, a 21 year old Tiger Woods sent everybody in attendance (and himself) delirious when he earned a hole in one from 152 yards with a nine iron.
Watching footage of the two aces shows that, despite the vast amount of development that’s occurred on 16 over the years, the spirit of the hole during the Phoenix Open remains the same.
Rowdy Atmosphere No Barrier to Scoring
Some traditionalists that don’t like golf crowds cheering or singing argue that the players need decorum in order to concentrate. Well, the stats from this event certainly don’t back that up. Whilst this isn’t the most testing course on the PGA Tour and organisers do set things up to encourage low scoring to please the fans, there could well be an argument that the relaxed yet charged atmosphere actually helps the players perform even better.
No golfer has won this event more times than Phil Mickleson and Lefty shot 28 under par to claim his third win in 2013. Coincidentally another three-time victor, Mark Calcavecchia, also completed his hat-trick with a staggering -28. The worst winning score this century is 14 under par so when you are picking out your bets for this one, make sure to opt for guys who know how to go seriously low.
This event, rather unromantically sponsored by Waste Management (a US company who do exactly what you would expect them to do) since 2010, has gone by a number of names over the years. Prior to gaining its current name it was the FBR Open between 2004 and 2009, having for a long time been simply named the Phoenix Open (1972-2003, 1951-1956 and 1935-1949). Before that it was the Phoenix Open Invitational for a spell, was called the Ben Hogan Open in 1950 and was played as the Arizona Open for the first two editions in 1932 and 1933.