A volatile mix of huge crowds, mud and alcohol at the WM Phoenix Open had fans and players talking about changes needed to keep the event safe while maintaining its unique atmosphere.
On Saturday, the tournament shut its gates in the early afternoon, leaving ticketed fans unable to gain entry. At the same time, alcohol and food sales were cut off — all in an attempt to ease crowding near the entrance. The issue, organizers believed, was that muddy conditions left much of the course unsuitable for fans, forcing them to crowd into smaller areas.
The Scottsdale Police Department also cited the unusual weather.
“The course conditions were not normal due to the mud and rain,” Allison Sempsis, the department’s public information officer, said. “This resulted in the large crowds only occupying a small portion of the course and caused large buildup of crowds.”
Sempsis also noted that, at one point, fans were being allowed in without having their tickets scanned.
“There was a large group of attendees that were stopped before going through the gate,” Sempsis said. “Attendees were waved through for a short time period in order to keep everyone safe and to create a larger space for people to move around on the course.”
The tournament stopped announcing daily attendance figures in 2019. The last time attendance was made public, 576,807 fans watched the four days of tournament action, including over 200,000 on Saturday, which is typically the most crowded and chaotic day.
Sempsis said, “Every year after the event, SPD and other partnerships continually assess and evaluate what can be done the following year to ensure everyone attending the event is safe and has a good experience.”
As intoxicated fans reveled in the conditions Saturday, that safety came into question.
All over the course, shirtless fans found muddy hills to slide down. A shirtless fan leapt into a bunker on the 16th hole to do sand angels. Videos of fans who were unable to stand straight took hold on various social media sites.
For many tournament regulars, those events and other logistical issues tipped the scales.
One regular attendee, Todd Williams of Phoenix, has gone to the Open for 10 straight years but said the tournament would need to announce “drastic changes such as multiple new entrance…