WM Phoenix Open fan behavior, Tiger talk, New No. 1 | Monday Finish
Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we’d like to officially welcome football fans to golf season. Let’s get to it!
Author’s note: This is a Monday Finish Express Edition. We’re on site at Riviera this week, so there’s a bunch of things to get to — let’s keep it short and sweet!
FIRST OFF THE TEE
This weekend marked a seminal moment in my PGA Tour viewing career: I attended my first ever WM Phoenix Open. Driving in on Saturday morning was a welcome to the Thunderdome; twenty-somethings piled out of Ubers clutching plastic cups and wearing wide grins. “Fratty Coachella” seemed to be the dress code, and the party was fully underway well before a third-round tee shot had been struck.
I saw plenty of highlight-reel stuff you’d associate with the WM. Various groups of yellers adorned in star-spangled everything. Others blurring the lines between walking and stumbling. One young man in handcuffs screaming at a group of police officers. (Didn’t seem to help his case.)
But honestly, those were the outliers. Most of the hundreds of thousands of attendees (!) seemed in good spirits, content with a responsible dosage of adult beverages. They soaked up the sun, watched just enough golf to keep things interesting, relished the extra star power on site and generally seemed to enjoy themselves. Are parts of the WM over the top? Sure. Several holes feel like a festival with golf played in between. But don’t let viral social media clips make you think streakers and drunks were the only folks in attendance. Some people can handle their seltzers and have a nice little Saturday.
Who won the week?
Scottie Scheffler is back to world No. 1 thanks to a win at the WM Phoenix Open, the first full-field “designated event” of the new PGA Tour scheme. He holed a clutch eagle putt at No. 13 and then poured in a 15-foot par putt at No. 16, putting an exclamation point on the victory in front of the wildest crowds. Now if Scheffler can also defend his titles at Bay Hill, Austin and Augusta, we’ll really be onto something…
A lot of money, but no trophy.
Nick Taylor won at Pebble Beach in 2020, but Sunday’s final-round grouping with Scheffler and Jon Rahm felt like arguably the toughest test of his game yet. He hung in there with the best of ’em, literally, matching Scheffler’s Sunday 65 with one of his own. Solo second pays well here.
Rahm didn’t even seem to play particularly “well,” by his standards, and still shot a Sunday 68 to finish solo third. He’s nipping at Rory McIlroy’s heels in the OWGR and continues to play at a remarkable level.
Justin Thomas did well to climb the leaderboard with a Sunday 65 of his own to finish T4, putting him on people’s radar for the Genesis.
And Jason Day (T5) and Rickie Fowler (T10) each showed significant signs of life, including prowess in their approach games and their once-legendary putting strokes. Good times ahead.
Beginning with last year’s Masters, Rory McIlroy has finished in the top eight in 14 of 18 starts worldwide. That was 14 of 17 until his less remarkable T32 in Scottsdale, which mostly goes to highlight how ridiculously consistent McIlroy has been over that stretch. (He has four wins during in those 18 tournaments, too.) The WM may not be McIlroy’s scene; Riv’s classic vibe could re-center the World No. 2.
Woods was out scouting Los Angeles Country Club on Monday, as were many of his peers. These days, whenever Woods disappears for a couple months it feels like we’ll never see him again. But this week is a reminder that he’s not just looking to show up for the Genesis — he’s gearing up for major season, too.
(As for his chances this week? I’m worried it’s going to be too cold for him.
NEWS FROM SEATTLE
Monday Finish HQ.
The Space Needle seems pretty big until you realize it’s just 605 feet tall, which is really only 202 yards tall, which for these guys in Arizona seemed to be about a 6 iron, but downwind it’s as little as an 8 iron. The Needle’s just a solid par 3. More of a “fun fact” from Seattle than traditional “news” but here we are.
3 things to watch this week.
That’s the key to the whole thing now, eh? How well Woods can walk in a four-day tournament setting?
For 24 hours you could watch the first episode, so maybe you’ve already seen that — but come Wednesday you’ll be able to see the rest! Ft. appearances from your favorite Monday Finish writer.
Look, the first full-on designated event was a success. We had a stellar leaderboard and a ton of intrigue and even if we missed out on a tense finish, the product seems to work. Now it’s time to test it out on more traditional golfing grounds.
See you here all week!