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The Always-Rowdy WM Phoenix Open May Have Been Too Much This Year


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The WM Phoenix Open has for years been known for its party-first, golf-second atmosphere. The par-3 16th hole is the epitome of rowdy, as a crowd of some 20,000 fans surrounds the short hole and players are booed and cheered unlike anywhere else.

No golf tournament draws like the one at TPC Scottsdale, with crowds upwards of 200,000 on Saturday not uncommon.

But at the risk of perhaps a few poorly-behaved souls ruining it for the rest, you have to wonder if things have gone too far.

Two years ago, a hole in one brought such a bevy of tossed beer cans onto the green in celebration that the tournament needed some 10 minutes to clean up the mess. Steps have been taken to limit that sort of outburst, but other issues continue to surface in addition to the common theme of excessive drunkenness that has been apparent for years.

Beer sales were halted for a while in the third round at TPC Scottsdale but these fans were not denied.

Patrick Breen/USA TODAY Network

When mild-mannered Zach Johnson goes to the gallery rope line to confront unruly fans, you know something is amiss. Billy Horschel lost his cool, too. On Saturday things got so out of hand that tournament officials stopped afternoon admissions and halted beer sales because the crowds had become too big—and in some cases, unruly.

Now to be clear, the players, the PGA Tour and certainly the tournament have embraced this type of scene for years. Most of the players enjoy the banter. Having a huge crowd at a golf tournament is a huge deal and comes across great on TV.

But when is enough enough? The week produced numerous displays that went viral that included boorish behavior, fighting, drunkenness, public urination and then the fans perhaps going overboard in response to players.

While all of it raises concerns, the player part could have the biggest impact. All along, players have grumbled about some of the stuff that goes on at TPC Scottsdale, feeling at times it has crossed the line. But when their frustration is unleased publicly, that’s not a good sign. It means players might skip the event going forward, and what has been viewed as a good thing becomes a negative.

Nobody wants to be the no-fun police here. The WM is a unique tournament, a unique environment. It raises millions for charity, it embraces playing on Super Bowl weekend and—usually—it presents some great weather for people in other locales to watch on television and presents a terrific vibe.

But how do you keep what’s great for the masses while curbing the minority that seem to be hurting it? That is the dilemma.

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