Nick Saban’s swing, Max Homa’s dinner recommendations (and an epic fall) | Rogers Report

Nick Saban at the WM Phoenix Open on Wednesday.

From Nick Saban's day on the course to Max Homa's recommendations and hail in Scottsdale, get caught up on Wednesday at the WM Phoenix Open.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Hello, friends, and greetings from the WM Phoenix Open! I arrived in Phoenix on Tuesday afternoon and hit the ground running ready to have a full day at TPC Scottsdale on Wednesday. Unfortunately the weather had other plans for everyone here, but there was still a lot to see and hear.

This is my first PGA Tour event of 2024, and it very much felt like the first day of school. I’m always happy to be on-site at an event, but I was particularly excited this week. This is my third year of traveling to events, so it’s fun to reconnect with all of the people I’ve gotten to know on the road over the years. The last event I went to was the PNC Championship, and before that the Ryder Cup and U.S. Open, so it had definitely been a while since I’ve seen some of my pals.

Speaking of pals, I was catching up with some of the Barstool guys on the practice green when I kept hearing people yelling my name. Or so I thought. Anyways, it was an instant ego-bump to think that some golf fans were trying to get my attention! That was, until I learned it was the security and volunteers yelling, “Clear!” as players passed through, not “Claire!” which was a very humbling realization.

The 16th hole

As soon as I dropped off my backpack in the media center, I booked it to the 16th hole. The stadium was just starting to fill up when I got there at about 9:30 a.m., and it was jam-packed by the time the first group came through at 11:15. The tee box was lined with security and police officers, probably in case of any over-served fans, but I couldn’t help but feel like I needed to be on my best behavior.

There were a handful of celebrities scheduled to play in the pro-am, and the first big name I saw come by was Nick Saban. What a way to spend his first signing day as a retired man! It’s his first time playing in the pro-am here, but he seemed pretty relaxed. I guess he’s used to being in front of a lot of people in stadiums. He was teeing it up alongside Corey Conners. I thought Saban would’ve teed it up with Justin Thomas due to their Alabama connection, but it turns out Conners has a connection with the legendary football coach as well.

I’m not a swing instructor, but I did consider it my civic duty to capture Saban’s move so all of my loyal readers can take a look. Please note that we are not allowed to capture video on the course at PGA Tour events, so I did the next best thing and took a handful of photos while Saban hit his tee shot on 16, which landed about 10 yards short of the green.

I’ll leave the swing analysis to the armchair golf instructors among us. Saban then caught up with Kira Dixon to chat about the event, his golf game and the other Alabama Nick (Nick Dunlap).

I watched a few more groups come through, and then it started to rain. It quickly got very cold, and the rain turned to hail! About 50 people who were lingering by the 16th tee box made their way into the tunnel between the 15th green and 16th tee. Among the people waiting for the storm to pass? Alex Rodriguez!

The weather

I’m not done talking about A-Rod, but we’ll transition to the weather section of this post. While I never got to watch Rodriguez hit his tee shot on the 16th, I did get to watch him watch the rain, which is almost just as good. He was playing in Emiliano Grillo’s group, and we were in tight quarters as we waited for the hail to stop.

A-Rod waiting out the rain at the WM Pro-Am.
A-Rod waiting out the rain at the WM Pro-Am. Claire Rogers

We were only stuck there for about 20 minutes, but I had a half of a turkey sandwich which I was ready to auction off to the highest bidder if it came down to that.

When the rain finally stopped, I sprinted up to the green to see what we were working with puddle-wise. It looked bad here, but it drained within about 20 minutes. The rest of the course wasn’t so lucky.

Play was called for the day soon after, but the practice areas remained open. This presented a great opportunity for people watching, as most of the field headed to the practice areas to put some work in before leaving for the day. I had a quick lunch and sat in for a presser before heading back out toward the range.

Max Homa’s presser

Twitter king and notable good golfer Max Homa headed into the media center for a quick interview once play was called. I know we usually call the Genesis Invitational a home game for Homa because he’s from Los Angeles, but he lives in Scottsdale now, so this is really a home game for him. I asked him about the perks of being able to stay at his own house this week and for any food recommendations he might have. Here’s what he had to say.

“One major perk is my son can sleep in his room, and we know where everything is,” he said. “Last week with the power going out, for example, at Pebble, we were in a house with the Morikawas and we don’t have all of his toys, and now you’re just full-blown entertaining a 1-year-old in a house that’s not baby proofed, and it’s chaotic. So we have at least that going for us this week. Recommendations, I do not go outside of my house other than to the golf tournament this week. It’s a little bit busy. But there’s a lot of great food options here. It depends on your price point. But there’s a lot of great options down by me in Old Town Scottsdale. My favorite restaurant in Scottsdale is called Ocean 44 if you’re looking to spend a little bit of money, and if not, there’s a great place called Eat Up right by my house that I think is fantastic. Quick, healthy, fast food.”

I did take the liberty of looking up both of these spots. Ocean 44 is “a unique seafood restaurant serving the freshest high-quality seafood and world-class USDA Prime Steak & Wagyu selections sourced globally.” Also, their signature cocktails look incredible. Eat Up is very much on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s a fast-casual place and their sandwiches look amazing. Perhaps I’ll swing by at some point this week.

The practice area

After defrosting and drying off a bit (even by my Boston standards, it was pretty chilly out there), I made my way out to the range and practice putting green. I finally met Min Woo Lee, which I am very excited about because he’s got the best Instagram on Tour and is sponsored by Lululemon. You all heard it here first: I’m manifesting a friendship with him.

Later in the afternoon, the place really began to clear out, so I decided to head back to the media center. The volunteers were warning everyone how slippery and muddy the ground was, but I had to make my way down a massive hill in order to get back inside to get my backpack. I walked slowly and carefully, making sure not to lose my footing. With about four steps left to the bottom of the hill, I slipped. I heard a few people gasp as my legs slipped into the air in front of me.

The fall itself was definitely more embarrassing than painful, which I’d usually be relieved by, but not in this instance. I was inside the ropes which felt a little bit like I slipped on stage. And then people started to clap as I got up. The whole thing was a quick ordeal, but it’s the sort of situation that will haunt my dreams for a few nights (or years) to come.

Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t look much better for the first round of the WM Phoenix Open. Luckily, I’ve learned there’s a lot to see when players are all hanging out together by the clubhouse. Either way, I’m looking forward to another good day at TPC Scottsdale.

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Claire Rogers Editor