Welcome to one of the biggest sports parties of the year.
No, we’re not talking about the Super Bowl. It’s this week’s Waste Management Open in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The Super Bowl takes a back seat to the golf action in Scottsdale … at least when it comes to on-site event numbers.
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Don’t believe us? Well, when you put 20,000 people around the 16th hole each of the four days at TPC Scottsdale that’s a tremendous party atmosphere in itself.
But that hole is just the tip of the iceberg. The 2018 attendance is both impressive and scary. For the four days, 719,179 fans walked through the turnstiles and that includes a record 216,818 on Saturday alone. Those record numbers won’t be broken — at least officially — as last year the event stopped giving out attendance numbers to take the focus off the event getting bigger.
And remember, the golf tournament is not like a baseball, football or basketball game where it’s three hours and you’re done with the event and party atmosphere winds down.
Nope, try 10 hours of sun, fun and booze. Lots of booze.
And then there’s party-central — the par-3 16th. The players will need three things to survive their time at this hole and be successful this week: earplugs, great golf shots and a clean track record out in the real world.
If you’ve got any blemishes on your record, no matter how trivial or how far back they may go, these fans will scope them out and there will be a boisterous reminder or two from the fans whenever you’re on the tee.
And that’s just the beginning. Hit a bad shot on this hole and a plethora of boos will come raining down. Make a birdie and the cheers can be heard in Tucson. Knocking in an ace (like Tiger Woods recorded in 1997) will register on Richter scales far and wide.
But we digress. Back to the action this week as the Tour leaves sunny California after two weeks and lands in even sunnier Arizona. This event has a definite love-hate relationship with golfers, fans, broadcasters and the golf world in general. It’s getting to the point of almost being out of control at times, especially late in the day.
Sure, it’s just golf. But these PGA Tour pros are trying to earn a living. Just think about you trying to do your job with thousands of heavily drinking ‘fans’ yelling and cursing as you’re trying to go through a typical day at work.
This event has players looking to start hitting their stride as Pebble Beach is next week ahead of the run of five big months in a row of star-studded events starting with the Players Championship in March followed by the four majors in the four following months.
The winner we’ve scoped out this week will have roots tied to the area. Jon Rahm, at 7-1, returns to Arizona where he toiled at Arizona State for four years with a stellar career.
Sure, he’s the favorite. And with good reason. He’s coming off a runner-up finish at Torrey Pines to Marc Leishman although Rahm probably should have won if not for a horrendous 4-over start through his first four holes on Sunday.
Rahm’s success at the Waste Management in his short career is eye-opening. He has played in the last three tournaments and is slowly climbing the leaderboard. His first time out in 2017 he was T-16, the following year was a T-11 and then a T-10 last year. He was also 10th at the Tournament of Champions to start the 2020 portion of the wraparound season prior to his second-place finish this past week.
It’s a sparse field of top-50 entries with 13 players fitting into that category but a couple should be in the mix including two who missed the cut last week: Xander Schauffele and Rickie Fowler, the Waste Management defending champion. With the big-time schedule of tournaments staring them in the face, a quick turnaround after missing the cut is a must for these two to get back on track.