SCOTTSDALE – The Phoenix Thunderbirds, sponsors of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, like to call their event “The People’s Open.”
However, it won’t be open to many people this year, and the people’s champion will be missing.
For the second straight year, three-time WM Phoenix Open champion Phil Mickelson decided to play in the Saudi Arabia International tournament instead.
Still, the event annually attracts more than a half million golf patrons, people watchers and partiers to the TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course. The Thunderbirds quit officially counting attendance in 2019, but more than 20,000 still dashed through the gates each day to grab a spot at the iconic par-3 16th stadium hole and throngs lined the fairways again last year as the tournament finished just before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country.
The sights and sounds will not be the same this year.
While four of the top six players in the World Golf Ranking are in the field, the Thunderbirds and PGA Tour will restrict attendance to 5,000 fans each day because of the pandemic. Masks will be required throughout the course, and thermal screening at the gates will be required for anyone attending the event.
Leading the field are defending champion Webb Simpson, World No. 2 Jon Rahm, who played at nearby Arizona State, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy, who is making his WM Phoenix Open debut.
Mickelson, who won most recently at TPC Scottsdale in 2013, elected to join World No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Saudi Arabia International tournament. Admission is $100 for a single-day general-admission ticket today, Thursday and Sunday. It is $125 on Friday and Saturday.