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GOLF

Why is the PGA Waste Management tournament called ‘The People’s Open’?

When you think of a sports event with a party atmosphere, golf may not be the first that comes to mind. However, there is one tournament that stands out.

Update:
Fans in Philadelphia Eagles attire cheer on the 16th green during the third round of the WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.
STEPH CHAMBERSAFP

Golf is a sport that prides itself on tradition and decorum. Famed courses like Augusta and St Andrews have an awe, an elegance about them, a certain je ne sais quoi that simply oozes charm.

And that is wonderful. There is always a time and place for dressing nice and being civilized. But just as that is true, so it is true that there is a time and place for letting your hair down, wearing a silly costume, and getting rowdy. In the PGA calendar, that place is Phoenix, Arizona.

Known as “The Greatest Show on Grass,” the PGA Waste Management Phoenix Open is a firm fan favorite. Attendance tends to hover around half a million people over the five-day event, the biggest crowd in all of golf.

The proximity of Arizona State University guarantees a sizeable student population in the crowd, congregating primarily around the 16th hole, where a 20,000-seat grandstand makes for one big party.

While good golf is cheered enthusiastically, poor shots are vocally derided, often leading to frayed tempers from the players. Arizona State alumni such as Phil Mickelson and Jon Rahm are fêted raucously.

Now in its 90th year, the Phoenix Open has seen its fortunes swing from poor attendance in the 1930s to a solid, if subdued, attendance in the 1960s. From 1971 onward, the tournament began to attract bigger names. Since 1973, the Phoenix Open has been played on Super Bowl weekend, adding the final touches to the carnival atmosphere that surrounds it.

And then came Tiger. In 1997, Tiger Woods made a hole-in-one at the 16th. As one of the easier holes on the course, par 3 became ever more popular as it became clear that if any hole offered the possibility of another amazing shot, it would be the 16th.

Organizers capitalized on the idea and added stadium seating, which created the conditions necessary for today’s event.

It isn’t all about the golf, either, as the evenings include lots of alcohol and live music performances at the Birds Nest, just across from the main entrance. The experience is truly once in a lifetime.

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