There’s a first for everything.
The WM Phoenix Open, known for the rowdy, stadium-enclosed par-3 16th hole and more recently for debauchery at its finest, closed its gates and prevented fans from entering the tournament at TPC Scottsdale on Saturday afternoon.
Tournament officials said that the event was simply too crowded.
“Due to larger than usual crowds, the WM Phoenix Open entrance gates are temporarily closed and shuttle service to the event is on hold,” the tournament said on social media. “Shuttle service back to parking lots will remain running. Regularly check our channels for updates.”
The tournament also halted alcohol sales in the afternoon around the course, apparently in an attempt to calm the mayhem.
In past years, there have been many viral moments from this event, from the gallery littering the 16th green after a hole in one, to fans streaking across fairways, to fans jumping in adjacent water hazards to try to avoid security.
This year, however, the chaos seems to have been ratcheted up another notch from previous years.
“I saw people, groups of people at 5, 5:15 this morning walking in just hands full of booze,” Justin Thomas said Saturday. “I just can’t fathom how those people are feeling right now, but if they’re still standing, power to them, and very happy that they were out cheering us on. It’s a rowdy crowd. It’s a passionate crowd. That’s what makes this event special.”
Said Jordan Spieth: “When I went home and when I came back, I couldn’t come the same direction. The police officers had blocked it off, so I drove up and I said, ‘how am I supposed to get back to the course.’ He said, ‘we’re over capacity. It’s hazardous, so we’ve got to go through a different’ – once he said that, I thought maybe we were in a little bit of trouble this afternoon, but we were on the front nine so it was a little less rowdy, and I heard they stopped alcohol sales.”
Sahith Theegala trails Nick Taylor by a shot during the suspended third round after opening with 65-64. He labeled the experience “fun.”
“There’s definitely some people that aren’t the best drunks, but for the most part it’s all positive, and it’s a fun atmosphere,” Theegala said. “You do have to block some of it out at certain times. That’s for sure. But still kind of in full embrace mode.”
Not all players were impressed by the performance of those outside the ropes. Byeong Hun An took to Twitter late Saturday and responded to a tweet asking thoughts on the day by saying, “s—tshows. Totally out of control on every hole.”
An, who shot 70-68 in the first two rounds, had more to say later.
“Yes, I know what I signed up for,” he wrote on social media. “Played here multiple times over the years and it was fun until today. It’s just personal experience.”
Much of the week has been plagued by weather. There was wind, rain and hail during Wednesday’s pro-am round and there have been delays over the past couple days, putting the event way behind schedule.
Tournament officials hope to wrap up the third round Sunday morning, then send players right back out on the course for the final round. It’ll be a tight window, but the expectation is that they can crown a champion by the time dark falls, keeping the tournament from going into Monday.