The first of the PGA Tour’s highly anticipated elevated events is the WM Phoenix Open – a tournament that barely needs any more hype to get fans and players alike excited.
Indeed, it was during this tournament at TPC Scottsdale last year where Joel Dahmen (who returns this year) and Harry Higgs (who doesn’t) got caught in the moment and went topless on the famous par-3 16th green as bottles and cans rained down around them.
While there is a genius attempt by the PGA Tour to ensure that, this year, beer throwing doesn’t happen, it is highly likely that the atmosphere will be electric again regardless, particularly given the enormous $20m purse on offer – over double last year’s $8.2m – and a field packed with some of the world’s best players.
No fewer than eight of the world’s top 10 play this week – Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Matt Fitzpatrick. Two of those players, Scheffler and Cantlay, battled it out for the title last year in a playoff, with Scheffler eventually emerging victorious in an epic for his first win on the PGA Tour.
That was the culmination of an incredible four days of action that also saw two aces at the 16h, from Sam Ryder and Carlos Ortiz. Ryder is back this year, no doubt hoping to repeat the achievement while building on his tie for fourth in his most recent appearance, the Farmers Insurance Open. Ortiz doesn’t get the chance to do it all over again, though, as he now plays for LIV Golf.
Another less celebrated player, rookie Sahith Theegala, also had a say in how last year’s tournament played out, pushing Cantlay and Scheffler at the top of the leaderboard before faltering towards the end, leaving him in a three-way tie for third with Brooks Koepka and Schauffele. While Theegala returns this year, like Ortiz, Koepka is absent due to his involvement with the PGA Tour’s rival.
The tournament is McIlroy’s first start on the PGA Tour since winning the CJ Cup at Congaree last October. However, it’s less than two weeks since he last experienced victory, on the DP World Tour in the Dubai Desert Classic. He will be confident of following that up with another win this week, but will surely face pressure from the likes of Rahm, who has four wins from his last seven tournaments and is a Scottsdale resident and Arizona State graduate.
The talent doesn’t end there with a further 10 of the world’s top 20, including Hideki Matsuyama, who won…
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