Golfers getting different experience at scaled down WM Phoenix Open

Feb 5, 2021, 11:36 AM

Jon Rahm of Spain hits his tee shot on the 16th hole during the first round of the Waste Management...

Jon Rahm of Spain hits his tee shot on the 16th hole during the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on February 04, 2021 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open underwent quite the transformation from years past.

With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, the tournament was forced to trim the massive drove of spectators to just 5,000 per day, along with the venues that are normally littered across the 18 holes.

Let’s just say it’s noticeable.

The small amount of fans is especially evident on No. 16, the par-3 that is infamously known around the PGA for its ruckus crowds.

“Yeah, I mean, it felt like there was nobody out there today on 16,” PGA pro Nate Lashley told reporters after Round 1 on Thursday. “It’s a little disappointing. It’s nice to see the crowds out here. Hopefully the fans will be back soon.

“You know, it’s just the way it is, and like I said, hopefully we can get back to normal soon.”

The stadium hole can usually be heard from a good portion of the golf course. This year, however, the atmosphere isn’t quite the same.

Just ask Matthew NeSmith, who nearly dropped in an ace on No. 16. Any other year, the place would be rocking.

“Yeah, it was fun. I probably made the quietest almost hole-in-one ever on 16. I got about six claps there and hit it to six inches,” NeSmith said, who entered Round 2 tied for the lead at 8-under (63). “But yeah, it was really nice. It was really nice to have fans again. It’s really nice to feel a little nerves.

“It’s been kind of quiet and it’s just been like we’re all kind of playing together at home or something like that. So it’s really nice to feel a little bit of the nerves and get some claps. I’m sure they’re having a really good time out here. It’s beautiful.”

Some golfers like fewer spectators, some enjoy a large attendance.

But after the last year, they are just happy to see fans back out on the course.

“It’s fun. It’s great to have actually feedback when you hit a shot on the green,” Arizona State alum Jon Rahm said. “We’ve had none of that for awhile and sometimes you don’t know if you’re 30 feet or three feet. It’s nice to have that feedback, to hear the fans cheering for you.

“The very few boos on 16 that you have, because it’s not nearly as much as it usually is, right? A lot of fun. We miss the fans. I’ve missed the fans. Even though it’s a very small percentage than we usually have here, it feels like a lot just because we haven’t seen them in a while.”

Rory McIlroy, who in his first WMPO appearance isn’t getting the full experience the tournament normally brings with it, is also enjoying some sort of fan presence.

“Yeah, it was nice to play in front of people today,” McIlroy said. “Yeah, just to get clapped for some good shots and good putts and get encouragement from some greens to tees, it was really nice to see people out here.”


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