The Phoenix Open has long been one of the more relaxed event’s on the PGA Tour. Spectators and players have historically embraced in a way they otherwise wouldn’t during any other event of the year, earning it the nickname ‘The Greatest Show on Grass’. This year however, may have gone too far but Rick Shiels has defended the scenes with the view it is good for the game.
Lightning struck twice at the weekend when Sam Ryder made the first ace on the sixteenth for seven years. There were 2,851 shots between Ryder and Francesco Molinari, who last accomplished the same feat back in 2015. Less than 24 hours from Ryder’s accomplishment, Carlos Ortiz followed suit and the celebrations were almost identical. Earth shattering cheers were met by flying beer cans and the ironically named WM Phoenix Open had a waste management issue on its hands.
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The jury is out on whether the celebrations crossed the blurry, if not, non-existent, line but Rick Shiels gave a rather candid opinion of his Rick Shiels Golf Show. "If I'm there, I would be one of the idiots", Shiels admitted. Shiels was keen to defend the actions of the spectators by adding, "You're there waiting for something magical to happen, and it did".
Shiels admitted that he had somewhat of a contradictory opinion that would depend on whether he was present in the crowd or watching the coverage on TV. In a poll of his 130,000 Twitter followers, fans had somewhat different responses. When asked, "Do you like the crazy celebrations at the 16th hole?", 67% of fans responded "Yes". In a further poll, 83% of fans said the celebrations were 'good for the game of golf', an opinion shared by Shiels. “It gets more eyeballs. You see the players having fun. You see players in a different environment”, Shiels said. A final poll showed that 61% of people agreed that throwing beer was unacceptable.
Although Shiels admitted he would get involved and, in his own words, "hate myself for doing it" he did share some sympathy for the course marshals', who are responsible for the clean-up operation after each of the celebrations took place.
Whilst Shiels defended the celebrations for the hole-in-one, the same couldn't be said for anything other. "It was absolutely ridiculous", Shiels said after Justin Thomas made a chip-in birdie. One Twitter follower described the aftermath of Thomas' birdie as "sad" and urged fans to "save it for the hole-in-one".
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The sixteenth hole was historically the scene of the annual caddie race, where caddies would sprint the length of the hole whilst still carrying the clubs. The PGA Tour banned the practice in 2013, citing injury concerns. A question which is of course hypothetical, is that safer than throwing beer cans?
Listen to the Rick Shiels Golf Show in full and share your opinion with us.
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James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.
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