An especially rowdy Phoenix Open resulted in 54 arrests, police say

An especially rowdy Phoenix Open resulted in 54 arrests, police say

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

To judge from the reactions of several PGA Tour players, not to mention a slew of videos that went viral, the recently completed Phoenix Open was an out-of-control affair even by the tournament’s notably unruly standards.

Now, statistics from the Scottsdale Police Department are underscoring the urgency expressed by one tournament organizer to “make changes.”

According to numbers provided Tuesday by police to The Washington Post, arrests related to the Phoenix Open leaped from zero in 2022 to 54 this year, with 18 having been made at last year’s tournament. Police reported similarly large growth over the past three years in ejections and incidents of trespass.

A spokesperson for the Scottsdale police said to The Post via email that causes for ejections range from violations of PGA Tour rules on fan behavior to noncompliance with local liquor laws, in many cases episodes of intoxication. The spokesperson also noted that the lack of arrests officially recorded for 2022 was in regard to police actions; arrests for underage drinking at the tournament that year would have fallen under the purview of the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control.

Dubbed “The People’s Open” and regarded, if not outright celebrated, as the rowdiest event on the PGA Tour — particularly at its raucous 16th hole — the Phoenix Open appeared to take a turn this year. With overflowing crowds making it difficult to move around the course, organizers decided Saturday afternoon to turn away ticket holders. Police also paused alcohol sales at several locations around TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course.

While Sunday appeared to bring calmer circumstances, several competitors showed they had reached their limits of tolerance. Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Billy Horschel were seen gesticulating or outright yelling at members of the gallery.

“I’m just sick of it,” the 47-year-old Johnson, a two-time major winner and captain of the 2023 U.S. Ryder Cup team, said at one point to the crowd during his final round. “Just shut up!”

After finishing tied for 60th in the event, which was won by Nick Taylor in a playoff, Johnson vented further frustration to the Arizona Republic.

“This tournament has been inappropriate and crossed the line since I’ve been on tour, and this is my 21st year,” Johnson said. “At some point — I don’t know what the line is, but you have people falling out of the rafters, you have fights in the stands. It’s to the point where, now, how do you reel it in? Because it’s taken on a life of its own.”

Johnson added that he would not “have any idea of if I’m going to come back or not. … I’m done with it.”

An official with the Thunderbirds, a Phoenix organization that hosts the tournament, said Monday that while it “ended on a very positive note … the week really started in a tough way when you think of what led to what happened on Saturday.”

The Thunderbirds had pointed Saturday to a week of steady rain as the cause of high traffic in certain areas around the course, thus increasing the chaos, and the organization’s director underlined that unusual circumstance Monday. In comments to Golf Channel, Chance Cozby said, “It was muddy — so many areas on the golf course were simply unusable — and what that led to is our fans ended up moving to more of our concrete, paved areas and really created significant congestion.”

Noting the Phoenix Open was in its 89th year, Cozby added, “I don’t think any of us dreamed it would grow into this level of attendance and excitement, but the fine line was when we just felt we were at a point on Saturday where our fans could not move around the golf course.”

He went on to pledge that fans will henceforth see “a complete operational change.”

“We’re very proud of what we’ve built,” Cozby said. “I think we’ve been tournament of the year on the PGA Tour five of the last seven years. But we don’t like what happened on Saturday. The players don’t like what happened on Saturday. Our fans don’t like what happened on Saturday. So nothing is off the table.”

Scottsdale’s mayor said Tuesday he was “confident that the Thunderbirds are committed to make necessary changes so the next Open is safe and enjoyable for all.”

“The Phoenix Open has an outstanding reputation and has successfully attracted millions of fans over the last 37 years to Scottsdale,” Mayor David Ortega said in a statement (via Phoenix station KNXV), “without the unruly behavior that we witnessed last week.”

The Scottsdale police spokesperson said Tuesday it was “too early to make a wholesale claim of changing strategy” regarding security arrangements for the Phoenix Open. Police and other public safety officials, as well as stakeholders such as the Thunderbirds, the PGA Tour and corporate sponsors will be involved, the spokesperson said, in evaluating “multiple factors in this planning process leading up to and happening in real time during the event.”

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