The PGA Tour heads to Arizona this week for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Kyle Stanley defends the title at TPC Scottsdale but will face stiff competition from an excellent field.
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, Kyle Stanley came from eight shots behind Spencer Levin to win by one. After blowing a three-shot lead on the final hole the previous week at Torrey Pines, Stanley closed with an excellent 65 as Levin stumbled to a disappointing 75.
The course at TPC Scottsdale was constructed in 1986 with this competition in mind. It’s a stadium track affording excellent vantage points for the 500,000 plus spectators who will watch through the course of the week.
This is the best-attended event in world golf with a tournament record of 538,356 fans coming through the gate back in 2008. Many of them make their way to the cauldron like amphitheatre surrounding the par-3 16th. It’s been the scene of many dramatic moments in the past.
When Tiger Woods aced the hole in 1997 the cheer could be heard 10 miles away. At the other end of the spectrum, Justin Leonard was not popular when he gave the crowd the finger after they taunted him for a poor shot.
The course is not one of the hardest on the PGA Tour and it doesn’t tend to suit a particular type of player. It’s pretty much anybody’s to win this week. One thing’s for sure though, the weather looks like being perfect – sunshine, low winds and temperatures around 70 degrees.
Phil Mickelson is a crowd favourite here. The former Arizona State player has won the tournament twice before – 1996 and 2005. He’s also finished in the top-10 on six further occasions.
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Venue: TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona
Date: Jan 31 – Feb 3
Course stats: par 71, 7,216 yards
Purse: $6,200,000 Winner: $1,098,000
Defending Champion: Kyle Stanley (-15)
Thursday 31 – Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Friday 1 – Sky Sports 4 from 8pm
Saturday 2 – Sky Sports 4 from 8pm
Sunday 3 – Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Rickie Fowler – Has made the cut in each of his four starts at TPC Scottsdale and was second back in 2010. He finished strongly last week at Torrey Pines and will look to build on that this week.
Robert Garrigus – Turning into one of the most consistent performers on the PGA Tour, Garrigus was tied sixth last week. He has a pretty poor record here but was tied 11th back in 2007. He’ll be looking to improve on that this time out.
Josh Teater – He finished well last week in the Farmers Insurance Open and his game is developing nicely. Perhaps this could be the week he steps up another level.
Key hole: 16th. 162 yards into a green that will be surrounded with 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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