The PGA Tour heads to Arizona this week for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Phil Mickelson is the defending champion but his participation is uncertain due to injury.

First contested in 1932, there have been some notable winners of this 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, crowd favourite Phil Mickelson took the victory. The former Arizona State player had won the tournament twice before – in 2005 and 1996. He’d also finished in the top-10 on six further occasions. He opened with a scintillating 60 then reeled off three more rounds in the 60s to win by four over Brandt Snedeker.

Mickelson withdrew after two rounds of last week’s Farmers Insurance Open suffering from lower back pain. At this stage he’s still hoping to defend the title in Scottsdale, but is taking the doctor’s advice and may still withdraw.

This is the best-attended event in world golf with a tournament record of 538,356 fans coming through the gate back in 2008. Last year, 179,022 attended on the Saturday – a single day PGA Tour record. Many of the fans 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 weather looks set fair this week. It may get cooler as the tournament progresses but there looks like being little wind and no rain. As such, expect to see some low scoring. Mickelson’s four round total of 28-under-par (256) was joint third lowest in PGA Tour history.

Venue: TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona
Date: Jan 30 – Feb 2
Course stats: par 71, 7,216 yards
Purse: $6,200,000 Winner: $1,116,000
Defending Champion: Phil Mickelson (-28)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 30 – Sky Sports 4 from 8pm
Friday 31 – Sky Sports 4 from 8pm
Saturday 1 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Sunday 2 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm

Player Watch:
Graham DeLaet – The Canadian is showing excellent form with a runner’s up spot last week and top-10 finishes in seven of his last 14 tournaments.

Ryan Palmer – A famously streaky player, Palmer was tied 8th in Hawaii and second in the Humana Challenge. He was fifth in this event last year.

Gary Woodland – Furious with himself for blowing a chance of victory last week, Woodland will look to make amends this time out. He has a tied fifth to his name in this tournament back in 2011.

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.

Where next?
European Tour –
Dubai Desert Classic preview