If you haven’t heard the dull roar yet, you will.
If you haven’t felt the ground vibrate, you will.
If you haven’t taken a couple of days off to celebrate golf and all that comes with it, well, maybe you have a real job and just can’t spare the time, the money or the brain cells to fully indulge in the WM Phoenix Open this week in the overseeded splendor of Scottsdale, Arizona.
But it’s here, the PGA Tour’s annual free-for-all during which a golf tournament is played in the middle of everything else going on – and there’s a lot going on, not all of it for public consumption if some of the tall tales are true.
Familiar with the old saying that there’s one in every crowd?
This week is the one.
To say Phoenix week is different is like saying M&Ms are popular, but this time, even by this event’s elastic standards, things are different.
This is where the PGA Tour’s designated tournament model kicks fully into gear. Yes, the Sentry Tournament of Champions last month on Maui had designated status, but it was already an event with a unique distinction: winners and Tour Championship participants only.
… they’re playing each week for a $20 million purse – $25 million at the Players – and the game is on.
Starting in Phoenix, four of the next five weeks will feature designated events, which means all of the top players – unless someone chooses to utilize his one excused absence from the 13 designated events – will be in the field at TPC Scottsdale, the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
That means they’re playing each week for a $20 million purse – $25 million at the Players – and the game is on.
This is what Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy constructed last summer when they brought together a select number of their peers and created a reimagined PGA Tour. There is still more to come, changes and adjustments that are likely to be implemented next year, but these events are designed to bring the best players together more often, with more at stake.
Just for kicks, the Super Bowl also is happening in Phoenix this week, which means that hotel rooms, rental cars, tee times and restaurant reservations are harder to find than classified documents. If you’re the type who loves being at the center of things, you’re probably in Phoenix already.
This is a big moment for the PGA Tour, which is still engaged in legal maneuvering with LIV Golf, as the new series prepares to start its second season in Mexico later this month. What Phoenix and the other designated events offer is what commissioner Jay Monahan is selling, along with the other residual benefits of being a PGA Tour member.
Nobody does it better and, pressed to adapt to an existential threat in LIV, the tour has worked to make a good thing better.
In a few days, the Netflix documentary series Full Swing drops, offering fans a behind-the-scenes look at life on the tour as seen through the eyes and experiences of several of the game’s biggest stars. It’s going to create a lot of chatter because, as the promos rightly suggest, last year was a helluva year to chronicle professional golf.
Having gotten an early glimpse at some of the series – expect plenty of private jets and gym time – it’s good stuff.
The tour hardly could have had a better start. Jon Rahm has won twice, and Max Homa won at Torrey Pines. For all of the hand-wringing about who the PGA Tour was losing to LIV last year, Homa is one of the players who has eased the sting. He’s a blessing not just because he has a knack for winning but because he seems so much like the rest of us.
With all the sniping and noise last year, it was easy for the golf to get lost at times.
That’s why this moment is important for the tour. It needs to be about the golf and the competition again. Nobody does it better and, pressed to adapt to an existential threat in LIV, the tour has worked to make a good thing better.
The Phoenix event isn’t for everyone, but it has its place. In fact, it has made its place and deserves credit for seeing what it could be and chasing it. Are most people there for the golf? Probably not, but the golf is there for them.
Between the beer-cup showers on the 16th hole and the party that seemingly never stops, someone is going to win a big tournament on Sunday, and the season’s narrative will take another turn.
Debris litters the 16th hole after a hole-in-one by Sam Ryder during the third round of the 2022 WM Phoenix Open. (Photo: Mike Mulholland, Getty Images)
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