ARIZONA CARDINALS

The 5: Bradley draws eyes, Rahm reflects at WM Phoenix Open Pro-Am

Jan 31, 2018, 6:14 PM
(Photo by Tyler Drake/Cronkite News)...
(Photo by Tyler Drake/Cronkite News)
(Photo by Tyler Drake/Cronkite News)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Before four of the best five golfers on the planet tee off in the Waste Management Phoenix Open field and before it gets crazy crazier, the 2018 Annexus Pro-Am took over TPC Scottsdale.

Former Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians’ month of golf practice since his retirement left him in good spirits as he worked the crowds Wednesday. Larry Fitzgerald avoided that question, though fans pleaded for “one more year!” throughout the day.

Here were five sights and soundbites that stood out during a sunny afternoon on the golf course.

Bradley continues his tour

Since his team’s season ended, he’s visited the Suns and the Coyotes. He’s watched an ASU game and participated in the Curtain of Distraction.

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley, after his face had been plastered in front of football Hall of Famer John Elway and probable Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the front page of the Phoenix Open tournament’s website, continued to walk the walk as the most recognizable face in the Valley sports scene.

Helping him stand out was the floral golf shirt.

Rickie Fowler, be warned.

“Had to get my dad in one too, kind of be loud and flashy a little bit for the open,” Bradley said of his Bad Birdie Golf shirt.

Has the offseason tour of the Valley’s sports landscape been a strategically scheduled plan to continue his ambassador work from the D-backs’ season? Or was it just Archie being Archie?

A little bit of both.

“It’s kind of me just being me and then realizing, yeah, there’s an opportunity for me to make an impact here, to kind of dive in and be part of building something bigger than myself, making Phoenix a sports city and a place that people want to come and support the D-backs, Suns, Cardinals, Coyotes, everyone.”

Another homecoming

Three years ago, an Arizona State student and amateur named Jon Rahm squared off against the PGA pros and finished tied for fifth at the Waste Management Open.

A year-and-a-half later, he’d finished in the top-25 of the U.S. Open and immediately announced he’d become a pro.

All he’s done since is become the No. 2 golfer in the world, trailing only Dustin Johnson, who is the only top-five golfer not at TPC Scottsdale this week.

“Life has changed quite a bit in my case. And it was quick. I mean, I played the U.S. Open as an amateur and the next day I was pro. Teed up at Congressional for my practice round (the next week),” Rahm said Wednesday. “I don’t think there was an adjustment period. Usually people have weeks, months.”

And, fittingly, he’s been paired with mentor and fellow ASU product Phil Mickelson in this year’s tournament in Scottsdale. It could mean good things for the Sun Devil favorite.

“There’s been a trend. A lot of times I play a practice round with him and then I go to either win or get close to winning that tournament,” Rahm said.

Shrugging off trade rumors

Diamondbacks starting pitcher Patrick Corbin has been named multiple times in MLB trade scuttle since the Winter Meetings.

The latest came after he signed a one-year deal in his final eligible year of arbitration, and the D-backs’ potential to be overloaded with starting pitchers — plus the slim chance they find salary space to retain outfielder J.D. Martinez — might lead many experts to point to the lefty as the tradable asset.

He’s not particularly worried about the chatter.

“Honestly I don’t listen to it much. If it gets really serious, I don’t know. I think everybody will listen. We’ll just see,” he said. “I’m just preparing to pitch for the Diamondbacks this season and excited about our team. Just a great group of guys and looking forward to making another run this season.”

Corbin said close to 25 of Arizona’s regulars are already reporting to Salt River Fields. And one of those players who has been around is starter Shelby Miller, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery in May.

“I see him everyday at Salt River. I believe he’s probably going to be getting off the mound soon so he’s throwing, playing catch. He’s getting ready for next season,” Corbin said.

They’re used to it … sort of

The reputation of the Waste Management Phoenix Open is well-known.

It’s rowdy.

If you didn’t know and need an example: Here.

Maybe more shocking than streaking: The 16th hole booed very well-liked man Bruce Arians after his tee shot.

Apparently, the professionals don’t mind such things. At least, the ones who show up don’t.

“The past few years, there’s been madness around the groups we’re in as we get to the last few holes anyways,” said 24-year-old Jordan Spieth, who is ranked just behind the 23-year-old Rahm in the rankings. “No, we’re pretty in the zone once the tournament starts. Nothing really has to change as far as a the mindset.”

He paused, and just before a reporter got in a second question, added, “Just the booze you got to get adjusted to.”

Spieth admitted PGA pros pick and choose their tournaments based on the success they’ve had in the past and their schedule preferences. The course probably is more of a turn-off than the sometimes poorly-behaved golf crowds in Arizona, he said.

“I think there’s probably a little bit of a trend with it being the younger guys kind of coming out and really just enjoying the craziness, maybe a different sport atmosphere, this stadium atmosphere,” Spieth said.

Rahm said he imagines a future where more tournament turn at least one hole into an arena atmosphere.

Like Spieth and many of the other non-pros playing Wednesday, the 16th hole is perhaps the best in golf. But creating similar experiences isn’t so easy in such a complicated sport.

“If you take the grandstands and the people and everything out of the hole, it’s just a 160-, 170-yard hole — flat, nothing special to it, not too hard,” Rahm said. “You can’t just go and pick any par-3 on every golf course all year. Some par-3s are real hard.

“I really feel like every course could have something similar to this.”

A word of advice

Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith worked the course with a stogie in his mouth, and before he hit the course, he lent the transitioning Arizona Cardinals, now under head coach Steve Wilks, some advice that might be something Winston Churchill would say if he were a football coach.

Maybe.

“Changes happen. They do happen and as a player we have to make the adjustments, we have to give the new coach a chance and we have to buy into the system like you had to buy into the old system in order to believe you have a chance of winning,” the former Cardinal said. “If you don’t do that, you put yourself behind the eight-ball.

“I think that it’s going to be interesting, it’s going to be a transitional phase. The players obviously need to make that adjustment and give the coaches a chance to instill their principles and their philosophy and their systems and learn it.”

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