Event: Waste Management Phoenix Open
Dates: February 1-4
Location: TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona
TV: Sky Sports Golf - Thurs-Fri: 8pm-12am, Sat: 7pm-12am, Sun: 6pm-11pm
While the four majors and Ryder Cup are comfortably the greatest draws in men’s golf, no event on the calendar pulls fans in quite like the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Taking place at TPC Scottsdale, Arizona, the PGA Tour event attracts more people during tournament week than the Ryder Cup and Open Championship combined.
Make no mistake; this is not your traditional golf event. And, with the 2018 staging upon us, here’s everything you need to know.
The 16th hole
Let’s start with the first thing that springs to mind about the Waste Management Phoenix Open - the 16th hole. Officials say that every tournament day, close to 20,000 fans converge on ‘The Coliseum’.
It’s a par-3, measuring just over 150 yards, with seating all around and, once fans have consumed a few beers, it makes it the rowdiest hole in all of professional golf.
Reportedly, fans queue to get into TPC Scottsdale at 5am – two hours before gates open – and then sprint almost a mile to get to the 16th for a seat. And, with no golf until about 10am, it’s a long, long wait. But, once the groups start making their way through, the atmosphere makes it more than worth it.
Memorable 16th hole moments from down the years include Tiger Woods’ hole-in-one in 1997.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open may clash with Super Bowl weekend but that doesn’t stop the event pulling in incredible crowd numbers.
In 2017, a tournament record 655,434 fans piled through the gates. In comparison, 235,000 fans attended the 2017 Open and just over 50,000 people attended the 2017 Scottish Open.
On the Saturday last year, another record was broken. A total of 204,906 fans attended on that day alone – the second highest attendance for a single-day sporting event in the US behind the Indianapolis 500 (257,000).
The attendance is even more impressive given that the city of Scottsdale’s entire population is 230,512.
Who’s playing in 2018?
The event is boasting an exceptionally strong field in 2018. In fact, the Strength of Field, as determined by the Official World Golf Ranking, hasn’t been as high since 2005.
World No.5 Hideki Matsuyama will be aiming to become the first player to win the event three times in a row since Arnold Palmer in the 1960s. It would also make him the fifth three-time winner in the tournament's history, joining the likes of Palmer, Phil Mickelson, Mark Calcavecchia and Gene Littler.
Other members of the world top ten in action are Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler. The full field list is here.
The Phoenix Open began 86 years ago in 1932 but was discontinued after the 1935 tournament. Its rebirth came in 1939 thanks to Bob Goldwater Sr and, eventually, with the help of The Thunderbirds, a prominent civic organisation in Phoenix.
During that 1939 tournament, a 27-year-old up-and-comer named Byron Nelson won the $700 first prize. Hogan finished second, 12 strokes back, and collected $450. Since then, The Thunderbirds have sponsored an Open every year except 1943, when wartime travel restrictions forced a one-year hiatus.
The list of professional golfers who have won in Phoenix reads like the golf Hall of Fame: Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Jimmy Demaret, Billy Casper, Gene Littler, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Miller Barber, Johnny Miller, Ben Crenshaw, and more recently Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson (above).
The tournament, previously hosted at Phoenix Country Club and Arizona Country Club, only moved to TPC Scottsdale in 1987.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open certainly appeals to those of a younger demographic, with the event particularly popular with Arizona State University students.
In 2018, the festival-like atmosphere is enhanced with the Birds Nest after-party tent – billed as the largest tent in North America hosting 9,000 people.
The acts performing throughout the week are:
Wednesday: Flo Rida (above) & Kelley James
Thursday: Florida Georgia Line & Chris Lane
Friday: OneRepublic & Natty Rico
Saturday: Zedd, Nelly & DJ Vice
Other things to know
• Hosted by the Thunderbirds, the tournament raises money to benefit youth programmes. To date, it has distributed more than $120m to hundreds of local non-profits, including Waste Not, First Tee of Phoenix, Phoenix Children's Hospital and the Junior Golf Association of Arizona.
• On Saturday, also known as ‘Green-out Day’, everyone is encouraged to wear green to support the eco-friendly efforts of the tournament.
• Title sponsor Waste Management recognise this as 'The Greenest Show on Grass', with 100% of all rubbish from the event not ending up in landfill sites.
• New for 2018, fans can experience the 16th hole through a live 360 and virtual reality (VR) experience during all four rounds. More info here.