‘The People’s Open’ will be short on people, people’s champion Mickelson this year

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The view from the upper deck of the 16th Hole of the TPC Scottsdale. (Photo by Marlee Smith/Cronkite News)

The walkway up to the 16th-hole Coliseum would make any golfer nervous, amature or professional. (Photo by Marlee Smith/Cronkite News)

At the entry to the course, the Thunderbirds sign shows the dollar amount of charitable donations. (Photo by Marlee Smith/Cronkite News)

Maintenance workers walk behind perimeter fencing while preparing the course. (Photo by Marlee Smith/Cronkite News)

A gloomy day looms over TCP Scottsdale as crews prepare the course for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. (Photo by Marlee Smith/Cronkite News)

A gloomy day looms over TCP Scottsdale as crews prepare the course for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. (Photo by Marlee Smith/Cronkite News)

The wind blows the flag on the 18th green showing the TPC Scottsdale logo at the end of the round. (Photo by Marlee Smith/Cronkite News)

Local golfers play their last rounds before the course closes for the tournament. (Photo by Marlee Smith/Cronkite News)

The Waste Management Phoenix Open monument sits at the top of the 16th hole walkway and includes the names of all players who have had a hole-in-one. (Photo by Marlee Smith/Cronkite News)

The professional tees of the 16th tee box remain closed ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. (Photo by Marlee Smith/Cronkite News)

Overcast skies and wind blow on the 16th green. (Photo by Marlee Smith/Cronkite News)

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.

Staff
News Reporter, Phoenix
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Marlee Smith expects to graduate in December 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in organizational leadership. Smith is the social media coordinator for ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

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