Inside Comments: Steve Turcotte

Notes from the WM Phoenix Open

When you walk through the front gates of the WM Phoenix Open you just never know what you are going to experience. Through the years at the TPC Scottsdale I thought I had seen it all. The thousands of fans, the drunken idiots, the spectacular shots, the beer flowing and throwing on the 16th hole and the craziest golf party you can ever see.

Just when you thought you had seen it all at the tournament they call the “People’s Open” along comes the 2023 version.

Let’s start the party with the fan who hopped out of the stands on the 16th hole, raced to the green, danced around the flagpole and juked a security guard on the way to the tunnel to the 17th tee box. He then went down the fairway, dove into the green side lake and was led away in handcuffs. Not a bad effort for just wearing what looked like a thong.

I followed Pacific Northwest native Ryan Moore on the back nine of his second rounds. He was hovering around the curt number which was thought to be 1 over. He was playing stead but on his 17th hole, left his shot in a fairway bunker and finished with a double bogey six. Suddenly he was outside the number; But on his final hole, he jarred a 45-foot putt for birdie to get to 1 over. And seemingly in line to play for the weekend. But the number went to even and Moore was left on the outside.

But the 16th hole is really where the everything starts, continues and finished every day. There is always a long line to get up the steps and into the grandstands. There are 3,200 seats available and they are gone early. On the second day when play was suspended, a maintenance worker came to the green to change the cup. The crowd looking for something to do chanted “MVP.” The maintenance worker threw up his arms like he had just won something. It was great.

Stewart Cink showed up on the tee box wearing a Kevin Durant Suns jersey, which was good timing considering the NBA All Star had just been traded tot he Suns from the Brooklyn Nets the day before. He was an instant hit on the hole.

Ryan Palmer continues to be a fan favorite. He started a tradition a few years ago taking a golf ball, wrapping a $10 bill around it along with a note that said “Have a beer.” He tossed one every day in the stands and someone gets a beer.

On the other side of that, I caught a golf ball thrown into the stands on the first day. It was a nice looking new Pro-V1. But everyone around me started to chant “Throw it back.” They kept it going.

Of course I had to throw it back. And, of course, they cheered. It might have been a different story if I would have caught the Ryan Palmer ball. Those $10 beers add up quickly when you are sitting on the 16th.

A new thing for the 16th hole this year was the emergence of plastic green and white beers cups. Gone were the cans. Vendors would pour the beers from the cans into the plastic cups. Tournament officials were getting tired of people throwing their beer cans when someone made a hole in one or a birdie. But that didn’t stop the beer from flying. Adam Hadwin nearly aced the hole and the beer frenzy started. Than Jon Rahm drained a 45-footer for birdie and the beer throwing party continued.

Sometimes there are big gaps between the groups when they head to the 16th tee. The crowd is always looking for something to do. A couple of times they got into good voice with the singing of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. Other times, they were singing happy birthday to golfers who were having birthdays. But the best thing the crowd did was come up with a chant saying “One of us.” When someone would hit a bad shot or miss a short putt the crowd went into full voice saying “One of us.” Get it, a typical hacker shot like “One of us.”

The crowds were so big that for the first time ever tournament officials did not sell tickets on site for the Friday or Saturday rounds. And fans got their money’s worth since it was considered an “elevated event” with winner Scottie Scheffler getting a check of $3.6 million – the biggest in PGA Tour history. All the big names were there: Scheffler, Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Jordan Thomas. Rickie Fowler was also there showing his improved game, he also made a hole in one in the final round on the 7th hole.

And to finish off – they had what some called the “running of the bros.” Hundreds of fans would wake up in the middle of the night looking to be the first one in on Sunday racing to the 16th. Despite the fact there would be no golfers there for hours, they didn’t care.

When the gates open at 7 a.m., hundreds of fans raced to the 16th hole to get their seats for the day. Most sprinted, some jogged, some walked. But it was a race to get the best seats.

A little chaos? A lot of chaos. But that just what you get at the WM Phoenix Open. It’s a party that is disguised as a golf tournament. And a party that just keeps on growing year after year in the Arizona desert.

Steve Turcotte is editor of Inside Golf Newspaper. He can be reached at