photo courtesy Arizona Foothills Magazine
The 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open kicks off in the Arizona desert this Thursday, January 31. The tournament is dubbed the Greatest Show on Grass and looks to be living up to its reputation. The tournament regularly boats weekly attendance rates of 500,000 or more, making it the best attended golf tournament on the planet. Last year, it broke its own attendance records when 720,000 fans went through the gates. Golfers are made painfully aware of just how different the Phoenix Open is when they face the 16th hole, better known as the “Coliseum”. This short par-3, easy by PGA Tour standards, is surrounded by 20,000 fans in elevated stands who loudly cheer or boo every shot. The tournament has seen many great former champions, including legends Arnold Palmer, Vinjay Singh, Mark Calcavecchia and Phil Mickelson.
2018 Champion Gary Woodland
photo courtesy Robert Laberge/Getty Images
2018 saw Gary Woodland pick up his 3rd PGA Tour win in a closely contested tournament. Woodland finished the final round with 3 birdies on the last 4 holes, and looked set the win the tournament. However, Chez Reavie, a former Arizona State golfer and local Scottsdale resident, would sink a 20 foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to tie Woodland and force a playoff. Both golfers then replayed the 18th hole to decide the winner. Both golfers were forced to play for par after missing the green with their 1st approach shot, however, Woodland would expertly chip to within a yard of the hole while Reavie chipped to 11-feet. After Woodland achieved par, Reavie couldn’t sink his putt and thus handed the title to Woodland. It was Woodland’s first victory since 2013.
Woodland returns to defend his title but finds a crowded field standing in his way. Hideki Matsuyama, back-to-back winner in 2016 and 2017, looks to get himself back on top after injury forced him to withdraw from last year’s tournament and miss out on the chance to three-peat. The field also contains Matt Kurchar and Xander Schauffele, both of whom already have 2 wins this season. Spanish golfer and Arizona State alum Jon Rahm, winner of December’s Hero World Challenge, returns to his old stomping grounds looking for the win. Other favorites include Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson. Former champion Kenny Perry also looks to recreate his win in 2009 despite currently being 58 and a mainstay on the Champions Tour.
It is also worth noting that the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open will mark the end of Johnny Miller’s long career in golf. Miller, who won the Phoenix Open in 1974 and 1975, spent 20 years as a professional golfer and 30 years as an analyst.