Home » WM Phoenix Open Punched a Vegas-Sized Hole in LIV Golf’s Superbowl Dream

WM Phoenix Open Punched a Vegas-Sized Hole in LIV Golf’s Superbowl Dream

Wild. Raucous. Insane. 16th at TPC Scottsdale is part of a golf lore. So, when LIV Golf decided to capitalize on the Superbowl fever, creating their own ‘16th’ was a no-brainer for Greg Norman. After all, the Great White Shark has recreated that quite successfully in his native country. But the makeshift galleries around the Party Hole at the Las Vegas Country Club are a sharp contrast to the strands at the WM Phoenix Open.

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Not that LIV lacked any firepower. The hype was there. So were the NFL stars at the Pro-Am. Yet, it has been a hard task to find fans, both on course and on TV. On the other side, Arizona, battered with rain and engulfed in frost, lacks a high temperature on its strands.

The WM Phoenix Open has a dedicated fan base

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Over the years, the Phoenix Open has generated a dedicated fan base. Consider Kris Bala. The Arizona native has been frequenting the Scottsdale greens for the last 43 years. A yearly trip that started in 1981 has not missed a year. Rain-soaked Scottsdale has not been a bar for the veteran golf fan. Before the famous 16th was reacted to or before the Phoenix Open garnered its celebrity status, Bala has been a regular.

Neither has the rain dampened the mood. Temperatures dropped at Scottsdale, but decibels kept rising whenever a group arrived on the 16th. Tickets were sold out for the Friday and Saturday third rounds—a first in the tournament’s history. A dedicated fanbase is why Phoenix Open organizers are unbothered by the LIV threat.

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The WM Phoenix Open organizers are unfazed by the LIV Golf threat

In fact, the commissioner asked about playing down. “Absolutely not,” said George Thimsen when asked if LIV Golf Las Vegas would affect the Phoenix events’ popularity. What makes him so confident? “There’s nothing that touches—especially in golf but in a lot of sporting events—that touches what we do here.

The 16th at TPC Scottsdale has witnessed many historical feats. Some have their own place in the WM Phoenix Open lore. That is also why Thiemsen was unfazed about the tour removing the signature status from the event. Last year, the WM Phoenix Open was one of the 13 elevated events with a higher purse. This year, however, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Tiger Woods-hosted Genesis Invitational bookend the People’s Open.

But Thiemsen was confident. “When we talk about (the motto), ‘We Are The People’s Open,’ the players come back because of the history and the relationship that they have with us, the tournament, and the fans here. And the fact that this is not like any other tournament.” The field, though missing three of the top five—Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele both withdrew, and Jon Rahm is in Vegas—has five of the top ten from OWGR.

The LIV Golf plan has largely been unsuccessful

Greg Norman’s plan was to capitalize on the Super Bowl hype to rake in more audiences. The Great White Shark has found some success in the Pro-Am, where current and former NFL stars, including Derek Karr, Will Levis, and Drake Maye, graced the greens.

However, Norman’s bid to replicate the success of the watering hole in Adelaide—which was modeled on the 16th at TPC Scottsdale, by the way—had to find success here. It’s one of a kind in Las Vegas Country Club and still at its nascent stage. The Party Hole in Vegas has a capacity of 3000, compared to the 16000–20000 in the 16th at Scottsdale.

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But even then, and despite having the firepower and Mother Nature’s blessings, Norman & Co. had a hard time filling those stadiums. Mostly empty spaces and gentle claps rather than raucous roars are what are seen and heard around the eighth. It’s a far cry from the beer showers of the Grange. Yes, no one has made an ace in the eighth yet, but the irony is that even if someone did, few were there to applaud that.

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PIF officials hope to change that. Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, and Bryson DeChambeau have been paired together. The in-house DJ of the X Night Club, Gryffin, has been booked, as DailyMail reported. The 16th at the WM Phoenix Open doesn’t have the luxury of PIF’s riches. Neither does it bank on that. Fans have scored at Arizona, while LIV Golf still awaits that in Sin City.

Watch This Story: ‘Rarely Got to Spend’: Jon Rahm Evokes His Emotional Side While Justifying His LIV Golf Move

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