More Fallout from Phoenix Open: An Incredible Burden on Public Safety

Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin, AP

Nearly everyone in the Scottsdale area now knows what could easily be called the “The Phoenix Open Debacle of 2024”, when the regularly ribaldrous affair went a few steps too far with the debauchery. Fights, overt drunkenness, and even someone falling off of a balcony were the result (read our coverage here).

Details have slipped in regarding how potentially problematic this iteration of the event was, but a recent story truly showed its messy nature.

According to coverage from Arizona Republic, police officers were called to circumstances at the event an average of every three minutes at the peak of its problems. The majority of calls came from the 16th hole, the epicenter of the rowdiness. Amongst other lowlights? This year set the event record for the most arrests, it included 48 medical emergencies (presumably many including alcohol), and had 127 service calls to law enforcement on Saturday alone.

Adding to the chaos was the gate-keeping. At one point in the tournament, the ticket checkers were unable to keep up with the masses of people attempting to enter and just started letting people in. Overcrowding from a crowd that was clearly less interested in golf as they were the party, alcohol, and a damaged reputation of an event known for being a party was certain to be a toxic brew.

While we know that often golf is secondary (or tertiary) in the minds of many attendees, one must also consider the brand damage that this year’s event has for golfers. What world-class golfers would want to be associated with something like this? At some point it seems like that prospect is akin to U2 playing at a dive bar in Apache Junction: it’s not a good look and may not reflect well on them.

It is clear that a real reset is needed. Can the event still hold onto the semblance of being the most fun golf event of the year without tipping towards a well-dressed frat party? That would be ideal…that is what sets the event apart, after all. But it is clear that serious changes are necessary, and if those changes end up making the event more boring, maybe that’s not the worst outcome.