LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Four days in the Arizona desert, particularly the Phoenix Open weekend, served as a stark reminder of what the PGA Tour has sorely needed.
When it comes to a sport that is best conducted in silence, noise is most entertaining, as long as it is the appropriate kind of noise.
There has been way too much commotion on the PGA Tour to begin the new year.
It wasn’t only the sound of beer cans pelting the TPC Scottsdale’s 16th green that created undue delay (interesting how pace of play wasn’t regarded such a huge issue anymore) and enough damage to the putting surface to almost alter the outcome.
Who is to blame for all this fuss gets lost in the debate about whether golf needs more tournaments like Phoenix (it doesn’t).
The audience. There are plenty of them.
After being barred from tournaments for a year due to COVID-19, golf fans are progressively being allowed back in. Traditionalists who thought golf had gotten out of hand in Phoenix might wish to consider the alternative. Phoenix was invigorating in that context.
Golf had never been more boring since it had never been so silent a year ago. The absence of people allowed Woods to experience what it was like to be Tiger Woods and play in front of a large crowd, which was a dream come true for players who had always wondered what it was like to be Tiger Woods and play in front of a large crowd.
At least among regular tournaments, Phoenix has one of the loudest – verging on outrageous – atmospheres in golf. The majority of gamers have learned to accept it. Those who do not have access to the internet can always stay at home.
Phoenix supporters are in risk of attempting to live up to their reputation, and this year was a step down.
It’s hard to fathom how the PGA Tour would be enthusiastic about two guys taking off their shirts (without even getting a birdie) to encourage further dumping of drinks over the green if the caddie races on the 16th were eliminated.
On Sunday, Carlos Ortiz hit an ace and kept his shirt on. He was also a little jittery.
“There are a lot of people shouting for you, and then you start worrying about your head because I got hammered in the back with a beer can,” Ortiz added.
He nevertheless enjoyed it, probably because he lived long enough to tell others about it.
Fans will have no one but themselves to blame if the tournament ever has to build netting in front of the grandstands, comparable to behind home plate at a baseball game.
Even so, it’s a pleasant sound.
Whether it was a dumb remark he posted on Instagram or opening his mouth the next day trying to defend himself, Charley Hoffman’s noise was not good.
It’s bad enough that golf fans have to listen to Phil Mickelson complain about the PGA Tour’s “obnoxious greed” while receiving seven-figure appearance fees in Saudi Arabia.
But what about Charley Hoffman?
Hoffman was found guilty of breaking the rules. When he drove into the water on Friday, put his ball in play, and then stepped away, his ball rolled into the water, resulting in another penalty stroke. He could have fallen in a more secure location, it appears. His next drop sat still. In any case, the rule is inconvenient.
It was about more than the regulations for Hoffman.
He referred to the USGA as amateurs running the professional game (not for the first time). He blamed the PGA Tour for the hazard line’s placement. He claimed that no one was held accountable. That, he said, is why “players are trying to jump ship and play on another circuit.”
The next day, he explained that he hinted at the Saudi threat because no one would notice if he just complained about the rule.
“So I purposefully placed a jab in there just to get the media’s attention,” Hoffman explained.
He went on to say that he supports the PGA Tour and that he has no plans to play in whatever league Greg Norman and his Saudi-funded outfit are planning. The PGA Tour can rest easy knowing Hoffman isn’t planning on joining another tour.
Scottie Scheffler won his first PGA Tour tournament in a playoff over Patrick Cantlay, who hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 in six months (OK, he didn’t play for three of them). Five players from the world’s top ten were in the top ten in Phoenix.
And this week at Riviera, the field includes each of the world’s top ten players on what many consider to be the greatest course on the PGA Tour. It won’t be a circus because it doesn’t have to be, and other tournaments don’t either. That is one of the things that distinguishes Phoenix.
The Masters is coming up in less than two months.
Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, two players who make the most noise, will be absent from Riviera, and no one will notice.
Fans will be in attendance. With the exception of the beer can shower, golf clearly missed them.