Chaos marred the weekend of the Waste Management Open in Phoenix as the gates were shut and alcohol sales were halted with social media videos going viral of drunkenness, arrests, and at least one fight breaking out.
A woman who fell out of a grandstand on the infamous ‘Stadium Hole’ 16th was taken away in an ambulance, but while it was reported her injuries were not life threatening, she was kept in hospital overnight.
Meanwhile, other fans were detained in police cells amid scenes that shocked the game. The Tour will come under increased pressure to introduce restrictions to curtail the wildness for future tournaments, particularly with normally placid golfers such as last year’s US Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson getting involved in slanging matches with fans - before 10am on a Sunday.
The Tour stop at TPC Scottsdale is easily the best attended event in the sport but has long had the reputation of being the most un-golf like venue on the circuit. But with what was reported to be a crowd well in excess of 250,000 on Saturday the scenario veered from the raucous well out of bounds into ugly and downright dangerous, with police and organisers taking unprecedented action to quell the madness.
Fans were denied entry by mid afternoon, despite possessing tickets. The slopes and banks on the course usually help to accommodate so many but with downpours causing delays in the opening days, the hillsides were not fit for galleries to sit on and were instead transformed into mudslides.
Bare-chested individuals took this description too literally and were pictured using them as luge tracks. If that was good-natured then scenes quickly became unseemly when the shutters were pulled down on the alcohol stalls and the throngs on the 16th - where more than 17,500 spectators pack into the wraparound stands - began chanting “we want beer, we want beer”.
As they waited to heckle players - Max Homa revealed there were loud shouts of “overrated, overrated” in the direction of Ryder Cup teammate Jordan Spieth - they were treated to the sight of one attendee being arrested after leaping over the ropes and diving into the greenside bunker, where, minus any upper garments, he performed “snow angels” in the sand.
While that created hilarity on the 124-yarder - nicknamed “The Colosseum’ - the emergency services struggled to cope and one local radio report claimed multiple fans had blacked out at the event where last year they sold more than a million beers.
Last year, play on the short but intimidating par three was delayed for 15 minutes as officials and volunteers were tasked with clearing up the “multitude” of beer cans and bottles that fans threw on to the green to greet Sam Ryder’s hole-in-one.
Elsewhere on the layout on a “Moving Day” when this supposed respectful sport moved ever closer to debauchery, the lunacy reached its peak when a fight between patrons broke out with no security present. The online video featuring punches being thrown and wrestling on the ground will cause a huge headache in Tour HQ and will inevitably raise fears that next year’s Ryder Cup in New York could become similarly disorderly.
Earlier in the week, Luke Donald, the Europe captain who perhaps fortunately missed the cut in Phoenix, joked: “This will give me a taste of what it might be like at Bethpage,” although the Englishman could not have foreseen this mess, which was clearly only made worse by the weather.
A post on the tournament’s official social media accounts attempted to explain the huge queues building outside. “Due to larger than usual crowds, the WM Phoenix Open entrance gates are temporarily closed,” it read. As swarms of fans had enough of the disarray and wildness and beat a sharp exit, the turnstiles eventually reopened. But the bars remained closed. And Spieth was glad of it.
“When I went home [after his second round finished before lunchtime] and when I came back [for the third round], I couldn’t come in the same entrance,” he explained. “The police officers had blocked it off, so I drove up and I said, ‘How am I supposed to get back to the course?’ The officer replied, ‘you’ve got to a go a different way. We’re over capacity. It’s hazardous’.
“Once he said that, I thought maybe we were in a little bit of trouble this afternoon, but we were on the front nine so it was a little less rowdy, and I heard they stopped alcohol sales.”
But the next morning and Spieth was shouting ‘what the f---’ at a crowd member on the 18th, who shouted during his shot. New day, same morons. Traditionally, the final round is a lot calmer at “The Wasted Open” and this should have apply doubled so this year as it falls on Super Bowl Sunday and the golf clashed with the action from Las Vegas, in the neighbouring state of Nevada.
Yet while the numbers were fewer, the abuse was still in abundance and unlike two years ago - when Joel Dahmen and Harry Higgs removed their shirts and waved them around on the 16th green - the pros were not impressed and prepared to state their disapproval.
In the cold breeze of a Sunday morning, Johnson could evidently stand it no more when he came under repeated verbal attack. He walked up to the ropes to have it out with one miscreant, but was told, very politely, he had the wrong man.
“Don’t you ‘sir’ me,” Johnson barked at the startled fan. “Look somebody said it. I’m just sick of it. Just shut up!”
At about the same time, Billy Horschel also became embroiled in a row with an unruly observer who bellowed during the swing of playing partner Nicolo Galletti. “Buddy, when he’s over his shot, shut the hell up!” Horschel said, before adding. “We’re trying to hit a damn golf shot here, it’s our f------ job!” As he strode away, the insults kept on coming.
Byeong Hun An was stark in his assessment. “S---show - totally out of control on every hole,” the former Wentworth champion tweeted. “Booing after shots is fine [but] there are lots of people before hitting it. I know what I’ve signed up for and have played here multiple times. It was fine before this year.”