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It's okay to boo at the Waste Management Phoenix Open



Notes and thoughts on the world of professional golf:

I hope by the time the Waste Management Phoenix Open is over there will be more jeering than cheering.

Golf is such a gentlemanly sport. The crowd is appreciative of good shots and the players, in turn, are reciprocal in their response to the gallery.

But when it comes to the WM Phoenix Open, anything is allowed in terms of applauding a good shot on the famous 16th hole or booing a bad one.

I love it when a player cups one of his ears, essentially asking for more applause on a good shot, and I also fancy the sheepish look on a player’s face when he flubs one.

When the gallery yahoos started throwing beer cans after separate aces by Sam Ryder (Titleist) and then Carlos Ortiz (Titleist) in 2022, it was wild. It was so unexpected, kind of like watching football games in which fans hurl snowballs.

There had been 2,864 tee shots in between the ace recorded by Francesco Molinari (Titleist) in 2015 and Ryder’s.

In the same tournament, before Harry Higgs (TaylorMade) lined up for a birdie putt, the fans started screaming “take it off, take it off,” wanting to see him expose his belly if he drained the ball. And after he did, he lifted up his shirt, much to the glee of the gallery. Playing partner Joel Dahmen (Titleist) then took off his shirt and started swinging it around like a lasso. Everybody got a hoot out of it, except the PGA Tour, which reprimanded him because you are not supposed to take your shirt off on a golf course.

I guess the feeling was it’s only funny until you take your shirt off.

For purposes of safety, beer bottles and cans were outlawed after the historic 2022 event, replaced by cups with a logo of the 16th hole. That effectively made the cups keepsakes.

I’ve said it before and will repeat it, the WM Phoenix Open is the People’s Open, way more real than any other tournament, because of the 16th hole. Yeah, the Masters is the Masters with all its beauty and history, but it’s too bourgeoisie (and I never thought I’d use that word in a golf blog) for the common man.

It is so quiet, you can hear the birds chirp, where the sound of cheering and jeering can be heard annually at the Phoenix Open.

By the way, am I the only one who finds it funny that one of the most celebrated PGA Tour events is sponsored by a garbage company?

WHERE ARE THEY NOW: It’s interesting and actually kind of sad that Higgs failed to qualify for his PGA Tour card after his season last year and the Q-School qualifying. At a time when many of the game’s biggest stars have bolted to LIV Golf, Higgs is now on the Korn Ferry Tour hoping to make his way back to the big leagues. Ortiz bolted for the big LIV Golf bucks when it began play in 2022.

THE RIGHT DECISION: Rather than risk player, fan, volunteer or official safety, it was the right call to scrap the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Open because of weather concerns. But I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that. I had Justin Thomas (Titleist) and Rory McIlroy (TaylorMade) as my two players in the PG Golf pool. McIlroy benefitted from the tournament not having a cut after some erratic play. He started off strongly in the opening nine holes and then fell apart, which saw him assessed a two-stroke penalty for an incorrect drop. It seemed to suck the life out of him in the second round, but he was making a bit of a move after round three. Granted, it was going to take a miracle to rocket up on round four, but we’ve seen him get hot in tournaments. Alas, it was not to be.

Thomas had been near the top through the three rounds and ended up tied for sixth, following his tie for third in The American Express.

It’s been an early bounce-back year for Thomas, who is expected to be a major presence in the Phoenix Open.

PREPARING FOR TIGER: So Tiger Woods (Bridgestone) has confirmed his participation in the Genesis Open, his first step on route to his 2024 PGA Tour schedule. He has played sparingly in officially-sanctioned PGA Tour events in the last three years. I guess from a fan standpoint, having Woods in a tournament is a bonus, even if his best days are well behind.

Perry Lefko
Perry Lefko
Perry Lefko is an award-winning writer who has published nine books, three of them bestsellers. He has been involved in sports writing for more than 35 years and has interviewed many superstar athletes. He lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada and enjoys watching golf and playing it.

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