The PGA Tour heads to Arizona this week for the wonderfully named Waste Management Phoenix Open. Mark Wilson defends the title in an event that always attracts enormous crowds.
This is one of the most exciting events on the PGA Tour schedule, owing to those huge crowds. The record attendance for the week is 538,356. Many of the fans make their way to the stadium-style par-3 16th hole. When Tiger Woods scored a hole-in-one here back in 1997, the roar of the crowd could be heard 10 miles away. Jarrod Lyle became the eighth man to ace the iconic hole last season.
The TPC Scottsdale is not the toughest course on tour, (it was ranked as 42nd most difficult of the 51 tracks the circuit visited in 2011,) and it often produces low scoring – three men hold the course record of 60: Grant Waite, Phil Mickelson and Mark Calcavecchia. It tends to be the man with the hottest putter who comes out on top in this event.
First contested in 1932, there have been some notable winners of the tournament over the years – Arnold Palmer won three in a row in the early 1960s, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Sandy Lyle have also taken the title.
Last year Mark Wilson came out on top after a playoff against Jason Dufner, Wilson birdied the second extra hole on a, frost enforced, Monday finish.
Venue: TPC Scottsdale, Arizona
Date: Feb 2-5
Course stats: par 71, 7,216 yards
Purse: $6,100,000 Winner: $1,098,000
Defending Champion: Mark Wilson (-18)
Thursday 2 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Friday 3 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Saturday 4 – Live on Sky Sports 4 from 9pm
Sunday 5 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Rickie Fowler – This is a course that suits the youngster. He was second here in 2010 and he posted the tournament low score of 62 last season. He produced a solid performance last week in the Farmers Insurance Open and will be looking to get his year going properly this time out.
Martin Laird – The Scot was tied for third in this event last year. He was second at Kapalua at the start of January and was in the top-15 again at the Humana Championship. He’s one of the Tour’s most consistent players and is overdue a third PGA Tour victory.
Phil Mickelson – Twice a winner of this event, it’s about time Phil Mickelson returned to form. He might take inspiration from the seeming revival of his great rival Tiger Woods. Perhaps it will light the blue touch paper for his season.
Key hole: 16th. 162 yards into a green that will be surrounded by thousands of fans, including many Arizona State university students, cheering good shots and booing poor ones.
Skills required: Concentration. With the huge throngs of boisterous fans swarming along the edges of the fairways it’s easy to become distracted. The man who wins will either harness the crowd’s energy or have his blinkers firmly secured.
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