Let the party begin.
Welcome to the Phoenix Open, 2020 edition.
It will be the biggest, loudest and can most likely claim the title of The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
The Super Bowl in Miami has nothing on this get-together. Over the next few days, the attendance will push the 800,000 mark by the time things end on Sunday.
Front and center is the rock-concert atmosphere that is the 16th hole. Imagine a golf hole surrounded by Fenway Park. That’s what you’ve got on site with something in the neighborhood of 30,000 well-lubricated spectators, whooping it up and actually bringing a real sports atmosphere to the normally hush-hush environment that is professional golf.
The players have embraced it. On Thursday Rickie Fowler asked the throng for more noise as he prepared to hit his tee shot. Constant noise doesn’t bother a player, not like someone breaking a silent atmosphere by shouting or clicking a camera at the top of a guy’s backswing. No, the more noise at 16 the better. Miss the green and you get booed. Make a bogey and you get booed.
Fowler, the defending champion, threw bags of Puma swag into the crowds as he made his way to the green, where his tee shot missed the green and, of course, Rickie got it from the boo-birds. Yes, even the tour’s sweetheart can get boos with a poor tee shot.
Wasn’t a good day for Rickie. After missing the cut last week at The Farmers, he had the two-way miss going with his driver on Thursday and that resulted in a not-so-good round of three-over par 74 and he’s in total danger of missing another cut.
But this event doesn’t depend on big names, although it has enough.
This week’s total fan favorite is Jon Rahm, who played golf at nearby Arizona State. Sun Devils get huge attention here. Rahm made ’em happy on Thursday with an opening 67 in his quest to replace Brooks Koepka as the world’s No. 1 player. He could do it with a win this week.
When you look at the crowds at the TPC Scottsdale, it’s pretty evident that there are a lot of folks playing hooky from work. No worries, this event is huge in the community thanks to the local do-gooders — The Thunderbirds. They raise about $20 million every year for local charities thanks to this Party City.
It was here last year when Gary met Amy — as in Gary Woodland and Amy Bockerstette. Amy played the 16th hole with Woodland at last year’s pro-am and her amazing par on the hole went viral. The “I Got This” Foundation was born and on Wednesday, Gary and Amy were reunited for a hug and then the Thunderbirds dropped 25-large on Amy as in a $25,000 donation to her foundation that serves to get more special needs and disabled golfers on a golf course and introduced to the game.
Yes, it’s party-on in Phoenix. Yes, it’s a cocktail party with a shot of golf on the side.
Wyndham Clark enjoyed the heck out of the proceedings on day one. He showed everyone a good time with 10, count ’em, 10 birdies on his card — a pretty perfect day that produced a dazzling 61.
No one saw that coming. Clark missed the cut in his last three events — Mayakoba, the American Express and The Farmers, where he followed his opening 69 with a dreadful 79.
That didn’t matter on Thursday. This was Wyndham’s day — a great start, if you will.
Things will get even crazier the next three days. The bands crank up after the last player holes out.
So party on.
This one makes golf a lot of fun — exactly what our often-stuffy sport needs.