Waste Management Phoenix Open Tournament Chairman Tom King spoke with Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM as a part of Newsmakers Week about attendance records and the young talent he is concerned about bringing in to the event.
In its 79th year, the Open set a new attendance record as well as a new single-day record.
“We exceeded every attendance record that we have had since 2008,” King said. “We had 563,000 people and 189,000 on Saturday alone.”
The increasing attendance numbers have led King and the other chairmen to discuss certain player concerns with the crowded course.
“It is a PGA event that requires, unlike football, certain etiquette and quiet to make sure these guys can do their craft the way they need to do it,” King said.
Even with these specific requirements, King says that the Waste Management Open is a “one of a kind” event and is ranked in the top ten U.S. sporting events in terms of fan experience.
As the PGA Tour’s best attended event, the “Greatest Show on Grass” has featured many of the top golfers in the world playing on famous holes, including the famous 16th.
King calls the course, featuring a coliseum environment around 16, a “gladiator type arena.”
Impressively enough, the Open has done this without Tiger Woods on the scorecard. Woods has not participated in the Scottsdale event since 2001, when a person threw an orange on the green during one of his putts.
Two years prior, Woods had another incident on the course when a man was found with a gun in his fanny pack and was arrested after heckling Woods.
Despite Woods’ mishaps on the Arizona links, his hole-in-one on the 16th hole in 1997 remains one of the most memorable golf shots in PGA history.
King noted that while the increased attendance and rowdiness could be a reason for some players to not participate in the open, money and compensation also play a role.
“There are no inducements for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, so there is a lot of that that he [Tiger] has committed to but he put that hole on the map,” King said. “That hole-in-one in 1997 was it. It kind of grew from there. It was a hot dog stand and a beer cooler and here we are 200 sky boxes later.”
Woods has been participating in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic instead of the Waste Management Open, where he shot a -6 and tied for 41st this past week.
King is optimistic about having top-tier golfers like Woods come back to the Open, but for the near future it is all about the young talent.
“At some point he may want to come back and do it one more time, but as of right now we’d love to have a Rory McIlroy,” King said. “Someone young and really cutting edge like that would be awesome next year with the Super Bowl coming.”