PGA Tour taking the fun out of Phoenix
For the second time in three years, the PGA Tour has put the kibosh on an element that made the 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open so memorable.
Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesAt most PGA Tour events, you might find a player toss a golf ball or glove into the stands. At TPC Scottsdale, you never knew what you might walk away with at the par-3 16th hole.
The PGA Tour put out a notice to players and caddies stating that "for fan safety reasons, players and caddies are prohibited from throwing, kicking, or otherwise propelling items into the crowd on the 16th hole."
Three years ago, the tour discontinued caddie races for the safety of the caddies, and now players aren't allowed to throw swag gifts to the crowd for "safety reasons"? If you really want to make the 16th hole safe for the fans, stop selling alcohol.
Here's the truth: The Waste Management Phoenix Open loved the caddie races and loved having players interact with fans on the 16th hole, throwing hats, T-shirts, candy or whatever into the crowd. It's part of what makes the hole the Greatest Show On Grass.
Publicly, the tournament is forced to tow the PGA Tour line. When asked whose idea it was to stop these things, the answer is what you'd expect.
"You're going to have to direct those questions to the PGA Tour," said a tournament official who wishes to remain nameless.
The perception? After Tiger Woods declared last week he's playing the event for the first time since 2001, a couple of days later it looks as if the tour is telling the rest of the field how to act.
Maybe the tour should tell fans not to throw oranges or bring a gun to the course, as has occurred previously when Tiger played at TPC Scottsdale.
I would encourage golfers to hand out gifts to fans on the 17th tee, because apparently you're still following the edict. No one who works outside likes being told what to do by a suit who never leaves his desk.
Fake Breaking News! Next year, spectators won't be allowed to watch the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale during the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The hole will be enclosed in a dome. Only players, caddies and walking scorers will be permitted. Fans will be able to watch the hole on large-screen TVs placed outside the dome. Whew ... fans are safe now!
Real News! "If a player is going by handing them out or flipping them to someone in the first row, that's fine," PGA Tour chief of operations Andy Pazder told The Associated Press. "But not going by throwing things like a Frisbee."
So why the change in policy?
"A fan in public seating in a mad scramble to get a hat is going to hurt himself, or land on top of another person," Pazder told the AP. "I would say to the players, 'Think about the liability.'"
Hmmm. Seems the PGA Tour is good at dancing backwards.