Tuesday, February 27, 2024

WM Phoenix Open explains controversial course closure decision

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It was chaos at the WM Phoenix Open Saturday.

Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

On Saturday the “People’s Open” was closed to the people, at least briefly.

Now the host of the WM Phoenix Open, the Thunderbirds organization, is explaining why it had to shut down the entry gates Saturday.

According to GOLF’s Claire Rogers, people were trampled among the crowd Saturday and fences were cut to create more space. This came after a fan fell at the stadium that surrounds the famous 16th hole fell Friday, sustaining non-life-threatening injuries.

Sunday morning, the Thunderbirds issued a statement on Twitter, explaining the decision. You can read it in full:

“As an organization, our fans and their safety is our top priority. Due to steady rainfall in Scottsdale this week that created deteriorating course conditions, we unfortunately had to close the gates at the tournament entrance and stop allowing fans to enter the golf course on Saturday afternoon. The stadium-style course layout at TPC Scottsdale which features large banks for crowds to stand and sit, were soggy and unusable. This pushed patrons who would normally congregate in those areas into high-foot-traffic areas causing severe congestion at key points on event grounds including the entrance and exit. After consulting with event partners and officials, we made the decision to temporarily close the tournament entrance to alleviate crowding in those areas in the interest of public safety. We know that fans with Saturday tickets were turned away. The Thunderbirds as an organization are gathering more details and discussing options on how to remedy their concerns. To the greatest fans in golf, we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused as we always strive to create the best event possible.”

The Associated Press reported gates were closed around 2 p.m. Saturday and ticket-holders were temporarily turned away.

Statements on the tournament’s social media pages attributed the closures to “larger than usual crowds.”

The AP also noted it is the first time the event has ever had to turn fans away at the gates.

The tournament hasn’t reported attendance figures since 2018 when more than 700,000 people visited the tournament for the week. However, NBC broadcasters have numerous times throughout the weekend said they believe this could be one of the highest-attended tournaments ever.

Heavy rain delayed the tournament both on Thursday and Saturday, throwing the tournament schedule out the window as the cut wasn’t made until Saturday and the third round was completed late Sunday morning.


It was a very chaotic Saturday at the WM Phoenix Open.

Gates closed, alcohol sales suspended amid chaos at WM Phoenix Open | Rogers Report

By:


Claire Rogers



That rain also left the grounds of TPC Scottsdale uncharacteristically soggy and wet. While the conditions posed a challenge for spectators on the golf course, who typically can use the mounding around the greens to catch the action, they also posed a logistical nightmare for tournament officials.

Thunderbirds Executive Director Chance Cozby said on the NBC broadcast Saturday that the weather caused the tournament to lose about 3,000 grass parking spaces. All grass parking spaces were still closed Sunday with the tournament directing pass holders to alternate lots.

Not addressed in the statement was the decision to cut alcohol sales on Saturday. That decision reportedly came about the same time as the gates closed Saturday and remained for the rest of the day.

Questions by GOLF regarding the alcohol suspension to PGA Tour communications staff were referred to a tournament staff person and have not been returned as of press time.

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.

 

 

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