Has The WM Phoenix Open Run Its Course?

Fan behaviour risks the WM Phoenix Open becoming an event that the top players no longer want to be part of

A security guard holds a fan down on the ground during the 2024 WM Phoenix Open
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The 2024 WM Phoenix Open saw a stunning finish from Nick Taylor and made for a thrilling conclusion to what is one of the PGA Tour's most iconic tournaments.

But is it in danger?

This year's showpiece at TPC Scottsdale turned ugly, with fans running onto the golf course, players being heckled and drunken behaviour seeing people slide down muddy hills and even wrestling fights.

It's one of the reasons why Rory McIlroy rarely plays the event and more big name players could well decide they've had enough of 'The People's Open' too.

Three players in particular made their feelings clear to the fans, with Zach Johnson and Billy Horschel confronting heckling spectators. 

Ben An described the scenes as "totally out of control" on social media, while caddie Willy Wilcox said the event is "descending into an all out heckle fest frat party."

Organizers need to do something in the build-up to the 2025 Phoenix Open otherwise the event risks becoming even more party, less sports event.

A fan gets escorted by a police officer at the WM Phoenix Open

(Image credit: Getty Images)

At some point somebody in the crowd could cost a player the tournament, as golf fans are a rare bunch that can genuinely put players off.

It's not football or baseball where heckling and singing blends into one. A badly timed heckle from a spectator could lead to a player losing out on a huge payday and a big career victory. If top players start pulling out, the event becomes untenable.

We could also witness someone getting seriously injured - and that did actually happen this year when a woman was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries after falling from the grandstand on the 16th hole.

How organizers can get a grip of the Phoenix Open is to be seen. The event is the most attended golf tournament on the planet with hundreds of thousands of fans turning up each year, and controlling them while the beers flow is always going to be a tricky task.

This past weekend the doors had to close and the beer pumps were briefly turned off. That seems likely to happen again next year judging on this past weekend's actions. It's always the minority who ruin it for the majority, and it's the minority of fans who turn up and have a competition as to who can get the most drunk or do the most obscene thing that have taken attention away from the actual golf.

There's no place for that at a golf tournament, and the scenes from the 2024 WM Phoenix Open don't reflect well on the PGA Tour or the sport as a whole. The event is a bucket list tournament for fans to one day visit, but is that really the case anymore?

Whether they can somehow limit alcohol sales or beef up security, something has to be done as this great tournament has begun to descend into out-and-out chaos. 

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We asked our audience on X if they felt that ban behaviour had gone too far. The answer was a unanimous 'Yes'.

One user wrote: "The tournament has escalated every year to essentially a drinking competition. Easy to forget golf is even being played."

An event where it's "easy to forget golf is even being played" isn't what our sport needs, where the story on Monday is about what happened off the course vs what happened on it.

Hopefully next year will be different.

Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2 HL

Irons: Mizuno MP-H4 3-iron, Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5