The PGA Tour heads to Scottsdale Arizona this week for the Waste Management Phoenix Open where Hunter Mahan defends the title he won last year by a single shot over young Rickie Fowler.
This is one of the most exciting events on the PGA Tour schedule, attracting huge crowds. Poor weather last year kept the numbers down somewhat, although over 420,000 attended through the week. The record attendance 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.
The TPC Scottsdale is not the toughest course on tour, (it was ranked as 38th most difficult of the 52 tracks the circuit visited in 2010,) 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.
Over the years there have been some notable winners of the tournament – 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 Hunter Mahan fired a superb closing round of 65 to win by one over fellow Oklahoma State alumni Rickie Fowler.
Venue: TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona
Date: Feb 3-6
Course stats: par 71, 7,216 yards
Purse: $6,100,000 Winner: $1,080,000
Defending Champion: Hunter Mahan (-16)
Thursday 3 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 9pm
Friday 4 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 9pm
Saturday 5 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 6pm
Sunday 6 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 6pm
Phil Mickelson – He’s twice been a winner here, in 1996 and 2005, and is the joint course-record holder. He was second last week at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rickie Fowler – Runner-up last season, Fowler will be looking to go one better this time out. He made his 2011 Tour debut last week in San Diego finishing in a tie for 20th.
Jhonattan Vegas – The Venezuelan is the form player on the PGA Tour at the moment. After winning the Bob Hope Classic, he was tied third last week. He has posted 10 consecutive rounds in the 60s going into this tournament.
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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