Every year, as January kicks off, my phone starts vibrating. It's from friends across the country or golfs fans on Twitter or even business associates online informing me that this is the year they're traveling to the Greatest Show on Grass.
The Waste Management Open isn't a golf tournament, it's an experience. These people that message me aren't coming to watch Mark Wilson play the 15th, they're coming because they know it is one of the most insane, and incredible sporting events they'll ever be a part of. For that week at TPC Scottsdale, golf isn't just secondary, it's third, fourth and fifth, depending on who you talk to, and the golfers understand that.
That's why the PGA Tour's announcement that the caddie races would be banned this coming year seems so shortsighted. The tour focuses on the craziness that is the Waste Management, yet are trying to outlaw one of the most fun parts of the entire week? What next, only non-alcoholic beer in the tents?
The Tour told the Golf Channel that the reason for this ban on the caddie races at both the Waste Management and the Colonial is because they're concerned with the safety of the caddies.
“We have advised the folks at Colonial and out in Phoenix to discontinue the caddie races. It was a situation where we developed a little concern about caddies’ safety. Running 150 yards puts caddies at risk for injury,” Andy Pazder said to the Golf Channel. “I had caddies come to me in Phoenix and at Colonial saying, ‘This is ridiculous, it’s like we are a carnival show.’”
Okay, first, I'm all for caddie safety. I've spent my fair share of time looping on the LPGA Tour, and have the upmost respect for the caddies, but the caddies should understand more than anybody that the Waste Management is a carnival! It's a circus and a party and everything you can think of besides a golf tournament, and that's why people love it!
Here are a few things everyone should know about the caddie races at the Waste Management Open.
First, not every group participates in the caddie races. Honestly, I'd say less than half actually sprint and run to beat the other caddies to the 16th green at TPC Scottsdale, and while I understand that running 150 yards might be tough for some, most of these caddies are in pretty good shape considering they carry a 50 pound bag 4-5 miles a day for six days each week.
Second, this is the same event that the Waste Management has been promoting with their iPhone app and other places, a signature if you get to the stadium hole and are planning to watch some golf. Fans absolutely love these races, and hunker down on the par-3 for hours just to be a part of it.
We've had guys wear football jerseys while they hit, come out and sing songs before they tee off, and spend plenty of time tossing stuff to fans as they stroll to the green. The 16th is as much a normal golf hole as Justin Bieber is a normal teenager, and I think this ban simply misses the point of the event.
It's a shame that this will be gone as the hundreds of thousands of golf fans, and beer fans, and high heel fans, come to Scottsdale next season, but at least we will forever have some of these highlights to look back on.
Now PGA Tour, after outlawing one of the more fun parts of the golf season, how about you take a second to focus on all those people screaming out ridiculous sayings as players are hitting golf shots? That seems like it could affect the game a lot more than two guys running 100 yards with smiles on their faces as the fans stand up and applaud.