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Opinion: Is the party-style atmosphere at the Waste Management Phoenix Open good for the game of golf?

This week’s PGA Tour event saw the return of the chaotic Waste Management Phoenix Open, with Scottie Scheffler retaining the title and in-turn regaining the world number one ranking with a two-shot win.

But this is a PGA event where the action on the course is overshadowed by crowd antics, best illustrated by the infamous par 3 16th hole, housing around 20,000 fans in a colosseum-style arena.

There is an argument to be made that this anarchic atmosphere deviates from the traditional values of golf, with fans on the 16th booing players who missed the green, displaying a lack of respect for the competitors giving their all for the fan’s entertainment.

However the raucousness of the tournament also provides some of the most cathartic moments in the PGA Tour season, with Sam Ryder’s hole-in-one on the 16th last year being a particular peak.

The question now remains whether the game of golf needs more events in this style to grow the game and connect with a younger audience.

I personally believe that this form of tournament is vital to inject an adolescent interest in the game, but understand that there are occasions when conduct can overstep the mark, such as this year’s streaker on the 16th and 17th hole disrupting pace of play, and subsequently being arrested.

This is an example of when the rowdiness of an event like the Phoenix Open goes too far and the game suffers for it, but with Super Bowl LVII also in the greater Phoenix area this weekend, it felt like these incidents were bound to occur and disturb play.

I also think that if there are more events trying to emulate this atmosphere, it takes away from the uniqueness of the Phoenix Open for the state of Arizona. If these arena holes became the norm, I think the novelty of it would wear thin for the more traditional golf fans.

There’s also the variation in fan culture between American and European golf spectators; if the DP World Tour attempted to recreate the 16th hole, there’s potential for it to be a damp squid due to the fundamental nature of fans in Europe to be more solemn and respectful on the course compared to the boisterousness of American golf fans.

But local golf fans believe that arena holes such as the 16th can only be a positive; speaking to Brickhampton Golf Course club pro Jamie Rudge, he said “I think it’s really good for golf; it needs that party atmosphere and obviously having 16,000 people in a stand is exciting for any golfer, so I think bringing a Ryder Cup atmosphere to a small tour event is very good.”

“Obviously (golf) does need a new audience and it does need to be a little bit more exciting, so I don’t think (the behaviour) is a fault in anyway and I think it needs it more than anything and to even push it into more events.”

Overall, I agree that this style of golf event is crucial for bringing a fresh audience to the game, and along with the release of the Netflix documentary ‘Full Swing’ on 15 February, it could precipitate the arrival of a new generation of golf fan to a game that desperately needs it.

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