What hushed reverence is to Augusta, what respect for long-standing tradition is to the British Open, what tight fairways are to the U.S. Open, so too is the festive atmosphere that characterizes the early season revelry that will take place the first week of February in Scottsdale, Az.
“I’m from Minnesota. That’s where I grew up. I have buddies who come down every year. It’s a routine. It’s a ritual and they come down and they love it,” said Alex Clark, this year’s tournament chairman for the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.
“It’s one of those bucket list types of events. Obviously, everybody would love to go to the Masters, but there are only so many tickets at the Masters. (The Waste Management Open) is one of those events that clearly is unique,” added Clark.
While all the trappings of a PGA Tour event will be obvious when this year’s version takes place Feb. 2-5, the Waste Management Open will also have the rowdy 16th hole or the bacchanalia that is the after-hours Birds Nest among the features that have made it one of the most unique events on tour.
“We’re not like a normal tournament. We’re an event and there’s a golf tournament around it,” said Clark.
“You can see it on TV, but until you’ve experienced it, you really haven’t had a taste,” he added.
Sitting on the par three 16th is a good example of Clark’s theory. It’s there that you will hear the college fight song for different players as they come to the tee, but if that player misses the green, he will be soundly booed.
Some players occasionally try to soften the effect of the crowd by firing hats into the stands as they make their way from tee to green at the 16th, which usually puts them back into favour even if they did miss on their shot.
A few years ago, Fred Funk got the crowd worked up by signaling to “raise the roof,” which drew a loud cheer from the stands. How often do you see players interacting with the crowd during play at other tournaments? Such is the effect of the infamous 16th.
Even with that, the proceedings are suitable for family viewing, which makes sense. The Thunderbirds, the community group that organizes the tournament, routinely sends proceeds to anywhere between 100 and 200 local charities every year, many of them children’s charities.
“I consider it the greatest community event in Arizona,” said Clark, adding that purchases of corporate skyboxes are up considerably this year.
“Corporate people love the fact that they are investing their dollars to entertain their guests and their clients and those dollars turn around and go back into the community for great causes,” he added.
The bonus for visitors, whether they’re with their families or just a group of guys down on a golf junket, is that they can tee off early in the day at one of several championship courses in the area and be to the tournament by noon.
They can finish the day listening or dancing to live bands at the off-course, but nearby, Birds Nest or taking in the nightlife of Scottsdale, which hits a high peak during tournament week.
“There are plenty of groups that come down here for golf, the Open and the Nest,” said Clark. They mix in all three and they have an absolute blast.
“If it’s couples or a guys’ trip or what have you, it’s definitely a lot of fun to be at for all,” he added.
Resorts in the Scottsdale area are also offering package deals that may apply during tournament week and into the spring. For more on that, click here.