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WM Phoenix Open, Super Bowl a potent one-two punch

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WM Phoenix Open, Super Bowl a potent one-two punch

Phoenix/Scottsdale area hosting both for fourth time this week

    Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR

    The Super Bowl has The Birds (the Philadelphia Eagles playing the Kansas City Chiefs).

    The WM Phoenix Open has the Birds Nest (hosting musical entertainment nightly).

    The Super Bowl is the Ultimate Game.

    The WM Phoenix Open is the Greenest Show on Grass, with the tournament’s 60 solar-powered on-course compactors collecting recycling and compost material to ensure zero landfill.

    This week marks the fourth time – 1996, 2008 and 2015 were the other occasions – that the Phoenix/Scottsdale area has hosted both the Super Bowl (the 57th if you’re keeping score at home) and WM Phoenix Open (88th, making it the fifth-oldest tournament on the PGA TOUR).

    That’s a potent one-two punch, and it means sharing everything from police – tapping officers from Chandler, Tucson, Glendale, Mesa, and Tempe as well as Scottsdale and Phoenix – to port-o-lets (3,000 for the WM Phoenix Open alone) to fans, some of whom will attend both events. Tournament Chairman Pat Williams has been busy.

    TPC Scottsdale - Hole No. 16

    “All positive,” Williams said in a phone interview in between his manifold obligations last week. “There are logistical issues, and they are transportation, travel, hospitality. We’ve hosted both events in metro Phoenix on the same weekend before, so we have experience, and the Super Bowl has been a great partner.

    “We’ve collaborated and are sharing information and resources, which has been great,” he continued. “It’s not just Sunday; it’s a full seven- or eight-day commitment to make it happen. You think about lighting for the evenings, bus transportation, parking – you’ve got to be out in front of it. The NFL, like they do every year, they secure a huge block of rooms. They also release what they don’t need in October, November, which helped, but hotel rooms are scarce.”

    The WM Phoenix Open, where the rowdy stadium surrounding the par-3 16th hole can accommodate 17,000-plus fans at capacity, typically draws an additional 20 million television viewers in the U.S., as well

    In a sense, PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan said, each event helps the other.

    “The world is kind of descending on that marketplace,” Monahan said. “For us, the opportunity is for us to have a great showcase that week. You've got a lot of fans that are coming into the marketplace that don't typically attend or may not attend that event or haven’t attended a PGA TOUR event.

    “One of the most uncomfortable things I have going on in my life right now,” he added while speaking from the Sentry Tournament of Champions in early January, “are the e-mails and text messages I have from people asking me if they can get a ticket or play in a pro-am.”

    Williams, who works in commercial real estate and is in his ninth year as a Thunderbird and first as WM Phoenix Open Tournament Chairman, said he, too, has been fielding multiple asks.

    “We have a celebrity pro-am on Wednesday,” he said. “This year we’ll have as good a list of celebrities as we’ve had; we had to turn people away, and that’s attributed to the Super Bowl.

    “Former NFL players,” he added, “executives of major corporations, people who might not normally attend our event – we’re entertaining and accommodating a lot of special requests.”

    Max Homa, who won the recent Farmers Insurance Open, is a Scottsdale resident and WM Phoenix Open veteran who is used to both events being held the same week.

    “There’s buzz every year because the Super Bowl is coming up, and if you wear a team’s jersey, (the WM Phoenix Open fans) go crazy, so I like it,” Homa said. “This year we’re hearing crazy stories about how much you can rent your house out for. There’s a house going for a hundred grand that’s not as big as mine, as new as mine, and I’m like, man, maybe I just rent my house out. I could stay at the (Fairmont) Princess and make, I don’t know, like ninety grand?”

    Homa won’t attend the game, he added. He could see going if it was at a bucket-list destination, but with the Eagles and Chiefs battling in his hometown, he’ll watch from his living room couch.

    Jordan Spieth and his caddie, Michael Greller, played in the 2015 WM Phoenix Open (Spieth finished T7), then drove down the road to watch the Super Bowl at Glendale’s State Farm Stadium, where the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks, 28-24. It was a tough loss for Seattle/Tacoma product Greller, but Spieth was left smiling.

    “That's when they threw it instead of handing it to (Marshawn) Lynch on fourth down,” he said. “I've been a Tom Brady guy, him being an Under Armour guy, and so I was on the good end and Michael was not. It was just us two went to the game, sitting together.”

    Keegan Bradley, a diehard New England fan, and his good friend Brendan Steele, as well as their significant others, squeezed into the SUV that Spieth and Greller had reserved to get to the game. The ride cost $126 per hour, with a minimum booking of 12 hours, and a parking pass was another $300. Seven people squeezed into the car, which was designed to fit six people. “I’ll sit in Keegan’s lap,” Steele joked to the New York Times.

    Spieth said he would attend this year’s game if his Dallas Cowboys made it – they did not – but allowed that the odds were better than 50/50 that he would attend even if they didn’t. Surely, he won’t be the only player to do double-duty and hustle down the road to Glendale after tapping out at TPC Scottsdale. The game is scheduled to start 30-45 minutes after the last putt drops, which is about how long it takes to drive from the Stadium Course to the stadium.

    Just don’t expect such gymnastics from chairman Williams.

    “We’re usually pretty wiped out by the time the tournament is over,” he said. “I didn’t go last time, and I won’t go this time. I’ll go home and rest in front of the television.”The Super Bowl has The Birds (the Philadelphia Eagles playing the Kansas City Chiefs).

    Cameron Morfit began covering the PGA TOUR with Sports Illustrated in 1997, and after a long stretch at Golf Magazine and joined PGATOUR.COM as a Staff Writer in 2016. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.

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