The Waste Management Phoenix Open is the gift that keeps on giving. And the timing of it this year could hardly have been better. With the threat of the rumoured Saudi Super Golf League hanging over everything like a dark cloud, the events in Arizona offered a timely reminder of the entertainment this great game of ours can serve up.
No gimmicks (kinda), no contrived formats, just some of the world's best with a platform to play how we know they can, as well as showcase a little of their personalities which are so often hidden in the heat of competition.
Anyway, here are five talking points from a tournament like no other...
Like Glasgow buses
Ahead of the 2022 edition, it had been seven years and 2,851 shots since Francesco Molinari made the most recent hole-in-one at TPC Scottsdale’s par-3 16th during the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It’s little wonder then that fans were eager to make up for lost time. Sam Ryder’s Saturday ace sent some 20,000 beer-guzzling spectators into a frenzy and left the hole nicknamed “The Coliseum” showered in beer cans.
And those with a weekend ticket didn’t have to wait long to experience that thrill again. Just one day and 35 shots later, Carlos Ortiz followed in Ryder’s footsteps to make it multiple holes-in-one at the 16th for the first time since 1997.
JT’s under-the-radar putting woes continue
While we all laud Rahm for his consistency, another who could quite easily be in that bracket is Justin Thomas. The American is a ball-striking machine but is continually being let down by his lack of proficiency with a putter in hand. Take the Phoenix Open for example. JT lost 2.8 strokes to the field in Arizona and finished three shots outside the play-off. You do the math…
Now if we compare that to eventual winner Scottie Scheffler, Thomas lost more than 10 (!) shots to his Ryder Cup team-mate. And it might surprise people but this isn’t a one-off. This season, Thomas ranks 147th in Strokes Gained: Putting and hasn’t finished inside the top 100 across an entire season in that category since 2018.
First-timers rule on the PGA Tour
Amazingly, that was Scheffler's first PGA Tour victory. The likeable American birdied four of his final six holes before heading to extra time with Patrick Cantlay and getting the job done at the third time of asking. That's three first-time winners in succession on the PGA Tour and five in 12 events since the 2021/22 season kicked off.
A dangerous precedent?
Golf crossed an interesting threshold in Phoenix. It’s always a rowdy affair but 2022 certainly took it to another level. As mentioned, more than one ace was made for the first time since 1997 and, as a result, play had to be halted twice as marshals and officials set about removing hundreds of beer cans that littered the famous 16th.
But rowdier yet was to happen on Sunday when the fan-favourite pairing of Harry Higgs and Joel Dahmen came through. Upon slotting a 12-footer for par, Higgs laid bare his rig for all to see before his playing partner followed suit. With Netflix cameras rolling and a boosted $50 million PIP fund to play for this year, could we see this sort of behaviour become a more common occurrence? Once is a welcome break from the norm, but any more than that would get old - quickly!
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Another near miss for Xander
The close calls are really mounting up for Xander Schauffele. His last official PGA Tour win shockingly came more than three years ago at the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions - a limited-field event. Yes, he won the Olympics and shot the lowest 72-hole score at last year’s alternate-format Tour Championship, but do they count?
"At first I didn't [count it] just because it was just new and people were telling me no," Schauffele said, in reference to his gold medal. "And then I kind of sat down and looked at it and I was like, 'Hmm, screw everybody else', like I think this is a win.
"So if you want to talk about PGA Tour official wins, then, yes, I'm lagging on that end, so we'll pick up the slack."
He’s actually only won one proper full-field PGA Tour event and that was back in 2017. Lagging indeed. Anyway, at the WM Phoenix Open, the Californian had nine feet on the 72nd hole to join the play-off and once again failed to find the target.
Another week, another Jon Rahm top 10. The Spaniard, despite failing to make the most of a solid tee-to-green performance, once again showed his World No. 1 credentials. Since his return in 2022 from an extended winter break, his worst result is a tie for 14th at the American Express Championship - a self-proclaimed off-week. That’s now 10 top-10s in his last 12 PGA Tour starts.
After recently fending off Collin Morikawa as the OWGR’s top dog, he has extended his consecutive streak to 31 weeks - the longest streak since DJ held dominion in 2020 - and 38 in total. An admirable run in this era. But it all serves to put Tiger’s reign into context. For Rahm to match the 15-time major champion's record, he needs to remain on top for another five years, three months and one week… good luck!
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A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
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