Traditionally played to finish on Super Bowl Sunday, the Waste Management Phoenix Open provided more entertainment than this year’s Super Bowl. The Phoenix Open is known for its par 3 16th hole. This hole is completely surrounded by grandstands. This gives the hole a rowdy and stadium like atmosphere, which is very unique for a golf course. Fans are known to boo poorly executed shots and go wild for an approach landing within feet of the pin. The players have really come to embrace the atmosphere. Ryan Palmer went as far as signing a golf ball and writing, “Have a beer on me!” Attached to the golf ball by a rubber band was a $10 bill. Palmer also signed the golf ball making for a pretty cool and unique souvenir.
Now to the action…
Entering the final round on Sunday, Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama trailed leader Danny Lee by three strokes. On the drivable par 4 17th hole, Fowler hit his driver nearly 360 yards over the green and into the water. Fowler gave up his two shot lead by making bogey. Matsuyama made birdie. On the 18th hole, both Fowler and Matsuyama made medium distance birdie putts to stay tied at 14 under par.
The pair would have to play 4 sudden death playoff holes to decide a winner. The two matched pars and birdies on the first two playoff holes. On the third hole, Fowler had to scramble to make par after his drive landed in the left rough. He followed up the drive by making an amateur mistake: he skulled his approach shot over the green. Fowler and Matsuyama would both make pars. On the fourth playoff hole, the pair returned to the drivable 17th hole. Hitting first, Fowler hooked his fairway wood into the water to the left of the green. Earlier in the round, Fowler also found this hazard with his drive. Wisely, Matsuyama played the hole conservatively to make an easy par for the win.
Rickie Fowler was looking to win for the 5th time in 9 months. Fowler was overcome with emotion after the round because he had his family in Arizona with him. They had never seen him win in person and Fowler felt as though he let them down.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open set a record attendance for the week with 618,365 spectators over the 6 days of ticket sales. Round 3 action set a single day record of 201,003 spectators.
Next up on the PGA Tour is the AT&T National Pro-Am live from Pebble Beach, California. This event is famous for the many celebrities that compete alongside the pros. Those expected to compete include ESPN anchor Chris Berman, Wayne Gretzgy (paired with son-in-law Dustin Johnson in the past), Mark Wahlberg, and fan favorite Bill Murray.