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Everyone loses if the PGA Tour fails to make changes to the WM Phoenix Open

The 2024 WM Phoenix Open should be remembered for Nick Taylor’s magnificent performance, which began with a course-record 60 in the first round and ended with three consecutive birdies on Sunday, the last of which brought him sudden death on two holes. playoff victory over Charley Hoffman at TPC Scottsdale.

But years from now, as we reflect on what happened, we will remember the drunkenness, rudeness and indiscipline of the fans more than the genius of Taylor and other golfers – and that’s a problem that local tournament organizers and the PGA Tour need. to wrap his arms around before things get completely out of hand.

I understand; The WM Phoenix Open has always been known for its excess, particularly on No. 16 where the fans – some in costumes, many drinking – apparently take more pleasure in booing tee shots that miss the par 3 green than ‘to encourage those who stick. But this year, we went much further.

There was the idiot who jumped shirtless into a bunker, the man who sat in a chair in a drunken state and urinated on himself while others walked by as if it was normal behavior , the woman who fell over the railing of number 16, the masked customers who were carried on people’s shoulders and the fans who fought along the gallery ropes.

On Saturday, tournament officials closed the entry gates and halted beer sales, likely because the crowds were getting too big and the situation too unruly. While concerning, what should get the attention of PGA Tour officials is the reaction of players who were so turned off by the incivility that they confronted spectators. in the middle of their turn.

Zach Johnson, one of the most mild-mannered participants on Tour and known for his unfailing politeness, lost his patience and confronted a fan who was heckling him about the Ryder Cup loss and his decisions as a captain of the team.

“Don’t mister me. Somebody said it,” Johnson said, clearly frustrated and angry. “I’m just fed up. Just shut up.”

Billy Horschel reprimanded someone in the stand for speaking loudly while his playing partner, Nicolo Galletti, was on the backswing. “Bro,” Horschel said for everyone to hear, “when he’s done shooting, shut up.”

South Korean golfer Byeong Hun An said the following Saturday on X, formerly known as Twitter: “S—show. Totally out of control on every hole. …Yes, I know what I signed up for. I’ve played here several times over the years and it’s been fun until today.

If the Tour (and/or the Thunderbirds, the local organization that puts on the event) don’t take note, how long before players start to feel like the hassle isn’t worth it and participate not at the event? And if that happens, everyone loses: the Tour, which is fighting with LIV Golf to retain its audience; players, who will miss one of the highest-paying unsigned events; and the well-behaved fans who want to see some of the best golfers in the world and not some local Johnny throwing down pints like he’s Homer Simpson.

For years, the atmosphere was considered very fun. It was different from any other Tour event because fans could increase the energy by raising the roof. Players have had fun with it too, like two years ago when Harry Higgs pulled up his shirt after parrying No. 16 and teammate Joel Dahmen took off his shirt and twirled it over his head , while fans threw beers on the green. The tour may not have been popular, but Netflix certainly appreciated it when it made it a major part of Dahmen’s “Full Swing” episode.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the uniqueness of the tournament in general and the hole in particular. This provided a break from the clutter normally associated with the so-called gentleman’s game. The Tour even leaned into the fraternity party atmosphere, accepting it as a one-off event on the schedule and not pushing back on the unofficial People’s Open moniker.

But Waste Management now looks like Waste Management. Organizers failed to recognize that people are generally predisposed to pushing the boundaries of their behavior. And every time some crudeness is tolerated or accepted, it becomes the ground for the next act of debauchery until we finally get what we got last weekend.

Some will attribute this excess to weather delays which made it possible to drink more. While this is possible, could it also be simpler than that? Could it be that people see this as an opportunity to act like fools because they don’t fear major consequences?

Before this year, I wanted to attend the Phoenix Open and witness the controlled ruckus of No. 16, never understanding why anyone would spend over $13 (2020 prices) on a beer only to throw it on the green. But it may be better than drinking it, because too many people like to use alcohol as an excuse for inappropriate behavior, which can lead to worst-case scenarios.

I have been fortunate to attend two games as a fan in the last two years, one at Lambeau Field and the other at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. Neither was enjoyable due to drunk fans acting like they are free to say and do whatever they want.

The Phoenix Open may be known as the People’s Open, but the people should never be the story. Golf should. This was unfortunately not the case this year.

“I think the Thunderbirds probably need to do something,” Johnson told reporters afterward. “I guess they’re ashamed because, at some point, someone is going to get really, really hurt, or worse.”

(Photo: Ben Jared / PGA Tour via Getty)

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