No masks, no distancing: the WM Phoenix Open delighted with the return to normal

Photo by Wesley Johnson/Cronkite News: Tour pro Wyndham Clark called last year’s Phoenix Open “weird” and said, “For a year it was nice to play the course without all the madness, but we’re all super excited to have the madness back.”

Through Dominique Stearn/Cronkite News

SCOTTSDALE — The 2021 WM Phoenix Open was played under COVID-19 restrictions and very limited crowds, but this year’s tournament will be unrestricted.

“The People’s Open” is used to seeing waves of fans storming the iconic 16th hole and other fairways at TPC Scottsdale. WM Phoenix Open President Michael Golding and his Thunderbirds team are looking forward to welcoming a large crowd to TPC Scottsdale.

Photo by Wesley Johnson/Cronkite News: The WM Phoenix Open is expecting large crowds this week thanks to an unrestricted event as well as ideal weather.

“We’ve worked with the PGA Tour, the City of Scottsdale and the State of Arizona, and we have no restrictions,” Golding said. “We have 200 outdoor acres. Each site on the course is an outdoor site. There is plenty of room for people to walk around. We expect a fun and safe event.

Fans also missed the players. Their annual trip to the valley is popular with golfers. Although last year provided a different experience which they enjoyed, they prefer loud crowds at TPC Scottsdale.

“Last year was weird,” said PGA Tour golfer Wyndham Clark. “I think for a year it was nice to play the course without all the craziness, but we’re all super excited to get the craziness back. That’s part of the reason we all love playing the event because that you have a few hundred thousand people looking at you and they’re going crazy.

This won’t be the first rodeo at TPC Scottsdale for touring veteran Bill Haas. He is thrilled to be performing in front of large, noisy crowds again.

“I think the fans are going to be as rowdy as they’ve ever been,” Haas said. “The energy you get from the crowd is second to none. There’s no tournament like this.

Last year’s limited capacity allowed for longer preparation time for this year’s WM Phoenix Open. Thunderbirds have found several ways to improve the fan experience for general admission and those willing to go the extra mile for their viewing experience.

Those changes began with the stadium hole at 16, a par-3. The venue has undergone more changes this year than it has ever done in a year, Golding said. New bars and boxes in addition to changes to general admission seating on the right of the green are part of the makeover.

The most unusual addition is the 1937 Club on the 18th green. What was once open seating on the grass is now a creative viewing opportunity.

“The 1937 Club is an elevated fan experience at our clubhouse,” Golding said. “It’s a brand new change that we’re excited about as we needed to improve the fan experience on the 18th hole. It’s one of the best finishing holes in all of golf, so it deserves a visual experience for itself. adapt to it.

Photo by Amanda Valley/Cronkite News: Billy Horschel practices at the TPC Scottsdale driving range before hitting the course for the first time this week on Monday.

General admission fans can find seats at the 1937 Club, but it’s mostly filled with boxes gobbling up the final hole. The only location not exclusive to TPC Scottsdale is the Taylor Morrison Fairway House along the 12, which is a 6,000 square foot general admission fan venue.

“It’s the best place on the course to see golf,” Golding said.

While it’s fun to be at the WM Phoenix Open, the quality of golf is still strong. Golding believes the 2022 field of players is the best in Phoenix Open history.

Fans can also regularly see birdies and eagles, as this is usually one of the lowest rated events on the tour. The last 10 winners of the Phoenix Open have averaged more than 18 under par after their four rounds. However, golfers don’t expect the score to be that low this week.

“I played here four weeks ago and the greens were super soft,” Clark said. “With the good weather we’re going to have, I bet it’s going to be very firm and very fast. I imagine if it gets firm and fast the scores might not be as low as they normally are.

Scottsdale resident Clark says the Phoenix Open is his favorite tournament of the year. Performing in front of his friends and the rowdy crowds is something he looks forward to every year.

“I sleep in my own bed and know all the restaurants and where to go,” Clark said. “For me, winning a major tournament or the Players Championship would be the only events I would rather win than this one.”

Photo by Amanda Valle/Cronkite News: Golfer PING settles in after his first shot at the famous 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale on Monday.

In addition to golf and fun, the Phoenix Open raises a significant amount of money for charities in the Phoenix metro area. Although they can be spotted sporting their velvet tunics this week at TPC Scottsdale, the nonprofit Thunderbirds spend the year distributing proceeds to charities such as Phoenix Children’s Hospital, boys and girls clubs and First Tee-Phoenix.

Ticket price increases and expensive clubs and clubs around the course can be daunting for some fans, Golding said, but these benefits are transforming lives.

“Thunderbirds’ secret sauce is that we’re all here to improve and compete and we work to improve this event every year so we can generate more money for the community,” he said. “Giving back is the most important thing. I’m certainly thrilled to say that we’re confident that we plan to give away over $10 million.

Photo by Wesley Johnson/Cronkite News: WM Phoenix Open President Michael Golding said he was grateful the tournament was returning to its old form and highlighted the 200 outdoor acres. The professional competition begins on Thursday.

Given the festive nature of the Phoenix Open, carpool programs have become a priority for the Thunderbirds. A bus to Westworld of Scottsdale will take fans to their favorite carpool program.

The celebrity pro-am will begin on Wednesday and the tournament will start on Thursday morning. Will Brooks Koepka defend his title, or will another golfer hear the roar of the tournament called “golf’s best fans?”

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