The WM Phoenix Open Needs Both Fixing and Defending

Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin, AP

You almost certainly have heard the news; heck, it made international headlines…our shining crown jewel of a golf tournament, the PGA “party of the year”, got out of hand this year. A woman fell out of the bleachers, numerous fights broke out in the stands, people rushing in without tickets; in short, it was messy.

The Party of the Year got out of hand and was a stain on the long history of the tournament. An event that typically walked a fine line between sports and debauchery drunkenly flopped onto the side of debauchery, and it did not go unnoticed.

Indeed, now elected officials are jumping into the fray and are being forced to make comments. For one, Mayor David Ortega stated his support of the event but seemed to put a not-insignificant amount of pressure on the Thunderbirds, the group that operates the Open, to make necessary changes. The tournament seems to have officially flown too close to the sun, metaphorically speaking.

First, we should state unequivocally that the tournament is important and special. It counted about 700,000 spectators this year and is a massive boon for the city of Scottsdale and the local economy. It is a festive opportunity for white collars to both network and let loose. It is a See And Be Seen affair, about as quintessentially Scottsdale as the Cowboy sign in Old Town

The thing about good things is that too much of them isn’t so good however. And the thing about pendulums is that they have the reputation for swinging too far in one direction.

Should the Open be a “normal” golf tournament, with polite golf claps and minimized chatting? Hell no. But this does feel like a moment where the pendulum has officially swung too far in one direction. For the sake of longer term viability and lasting brand reputation? Perhaps.

Thankfully, those of us in the chattering class aren’t tasked with coming up with actual solutions to problems, we just get to point them out, and hopefully enough of you find it to be a good enough read to justify bringing up the problem. But suffice it to say, a good party doesn’t need to devolve into a frat party. The best of Scottsdale isn’t stupid drunkenness and brutish, dumb behavior. Bacchanalia can coexist with classiness and dignity. It is very much possible.

The Thunderbirds have their work cut out for them: to cut the BS and preserve the uniqueness of the event. Two things are clear, however: the pendulum has swung too far, and that it doesn’t need to be an out-of-control mess to be a special event. We hope they are able to course-correct in a way that makes the event even more special.