SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Changes are coming to next year’s WM Phoenix Open in the wake of a series of incidents involving fans and golfers, overcrowding on the course and the suspensions of both entry and alcohol sales on Saturday.
Chance Cozby, the executive director of the Thunderbirds, the community organization that organizes the Phoenix Open, told Golf Channel on Monday that the tournament is already looking at ways to resolve the issues plaguing the biggest tournament on the PGA Tour this year. plagued.
“I think you’re going to see a complete operational change in how we actually manage our Fridays and Saturdays, but all week,” Cozby said. “We’re very proud of what we’ve built. I think we’ve been to five tournaments of the year on the PGA Tour in the last seven years. But we don’t like what happened on Saturday. The players don’t like that. ” I don’t like what happened on Saturday. Our fans don’t like what happened on Saturday, so nothing is off the table.”
Cozby said the Phoenix Open leadership team spent “five or six hours” Saturday afternoon as fans began leaving to brainstorm what changes needed to happen. The initial focus will be on general admission ticket sales and the tournament’s ‘complete safety plan’.
The Phoenix Open sold out Friday and Saturday, historically the tournament’s two most attended days, after limits were imposed on both days. The Phoenix Open stopped disclosing attendance figures after the 2018 tournament, when it set tournament records with 191,400 people on Friday and 216,818 people on Saturday.
Cozby explained that last week’s rainstorm caused the grounds of the TPC Scottsdale, where the Phoenix Open has been played since 1987, to become muddy and slippery, forcing fans to walk on the concrete paths instead of climbing the grassy hills. use for sitting. and walk.
That “really caused significant congestion, so we ended up not doing anything else on Saturday from a ticket sales or fan perspective, as we have done in years past,” Cozby said. ‘But because parts of the golf course were not usable. The decision was made by our security partners and team to close the front gate, close the concession stands and close alcohol sales. to safely remove our fans from the course and get everything back under control and try to get through that Saturday, which was a very tough day.”
According to the National Weather Service, it has rained 1.5 inches in the past week. On average, Arizona receives between 7 and 8 inches of rain per year.
Cozby said the tournament decided Saturday to stop allowing fans in because a major paved road that runs along the right fairways of the 17th and 18th holes was so packed with people that foot traffic could no longer flow normally.
“The fine line was really when we felt like we were just at a point on Saturday where our fans couldn’t move around the golf course,” Cozby said. “And at that time, the right thing to do was to take the steps we did.”
During his appearance, Cozby did not address whether fan behavior was the reason alcohol sales were suspended Saturday. On Sunday, Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson and Billy Horschel were each captured on video during heated interactions with fans.
Johnson told the Arizona Republic on Sunday after the tournament that he thought the Thunderbirds “probably should do something about it. I guess they’re embarrassed.”
Johnson added that the tournament was “inappropriate and crossed the line since I’ve been on tour and this is my 21st year.” He then pointed out that he, along with the rest of the field, is choosing to participate in the tournament.
Cozby acknowledged that the tournament “didn’t have a good Saturday” and promised to make changes and “correct this.”
“Saturday at the 2024 WM Phoenix Open,” Cozby said, “will ultimately be a turning point for our tournament and our organization to make our event better.”