Photo courtesy Waste Management Phoenix Open
The Waste Management Phoenix Open, also known as the "Greatest Show on Grass", has a rich history of showcasing some of the best amateur golfers from around the world. The tournament, which is held annually at the TPC Scottsdale in Arizona, has provided amateur golfers with a platform to showcase their skills against some of the best professionals in the sport.
Now, as an "elevated event" it appears that the tradition of inviting amateurs is over, sadly. Maybe tournament organizers should take a page from the playbook of the Geneisis Open at Riviera and hold a collegiate showcase or provide an exemption to the winner of a major Southwestern event like the Southwestern Amateur. We can only dream.
But plenty of amateurs tried to qualify against staggering odds. Just to "pre-qualify" and earn a chance at the Monday week-of-tournament qualifier, required rounds in the low 60's. Here's a stat for you. 624 golfers paid $250 to fill up each qualifiers at eight golf courses around town.
"I don't know if you saw the scores but it was ridiculous," Bill Ibrahim of the Southwest Section PGA, which runs all the qualifiers, told Todd Kelly of Golfweek "There was a guy who shot a bogey-free 64 and didn't get through. It's insane."
Of the 26 golfers who successfully pre-qualified, two were amateurs: Joe Neuheisel
of Scottsdale (the son of former Colorado, Washington and UCLA football coach and Tempe native Rick Neuheisel) and Leon Acikalin
of Istanbul Turkey, a member of the Arizona Christian U golf team.
Unfortunately, Acikalin missed a chance to become a feel-good story for his country after they suffered a massive earthquake. He posted 1-over 73 at McCormick Ranch, missing out by 7 shots. That's right; it took a 66 to qualify for one of the three spots in the tournament. Neuheisel was well back after a 4-over 76.
Regardless, the tradition of amateur golfers playing in the Phoenix Open dates back to the early years of the tournament. In the early days of the tournament, amateur golfers were given the opportunity to play alongside professionals, providing them with valuable exposure and experience. This tradition has continued over the years, with many amateur golfers making the most of this opportunity to make a name for themselves in the golf world.
Phil Mickelson is one of the most iconic golfers in the history of the sport, and his amateur debut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in 1992 was highly anticipated since he won the 1991 Northern Telecom Open at Starpass Resort as an amateur, bursting him onto every golf fan's radar.
Mickelson was an amateur golfer at the time, playing for Arizona State University. So this was a true home game, unlike the one in Tucson the previous year that required a 90-minute drive from ASU's campus. Mickelson made the cut and played well, but he wouldn't win his first Phoenix Open for another four years in 1996. After winning a playoff in near darkness, the local favorite (ok, he's really from California but you get the drift) was mobbed by the crowd and required a police escort to get off the course safely.
Check out the featured group on Thursday in the tweet below -- they all competed in the tournament as amateurs before becoming big names in the game.
In the first round of the tournament, Mickelson carded a 69, which was one of the best scores of the day. His impressive performance earned him a place in the second round, where he continued to shine, making the cut and securing his place in the tournament for the weekend. His final score of T-45 was a remarkable achievement, considering he was competing against some of the best golfers in the world.
Another Sun Devil, Jon Rahm is one of the most talented golfers of his generation, and his performance as an amateur at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2014 is a testament to his skill and potential. Rahm, who was a junior at Arizona State University at the time, participated in the tournament as an amateur, and he made a big impression on golf fans and commentators with his impressive play.
Rahm's performance at the Phoenix Open demonstrated that he had the stuff to compete with the best golfers in the world. He fired a 68 in the first round, which was one of the best scores of the day, and he continued to perform well throughout the tournament, easily making the cut.
Rahm's performance at the Phoenix Open helped launch his professional golf career. His impressive showing attracted the attention of golf fans and commentators, and he quickly established himself as one of the top golfers in the world.
In recent years, amateur golfers have continued to make a mark at the Phoenix Open. In 2018, USC's Justin Suh shot a 68 in the first round, which was the best score of the day.
The tradition of amateur golfers playing in the Phoenix Open is an important part of the tournament's history. It provides amateur golfers with a valuable opportunity to showcase their skills, gain valuable experience, and make a name for themselves in the golf world.
Here is a list of other notable professionals who first played as an amateur in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
* Patrick Cantlay (2011)
* Rickie Fowler (2007)
* Xander Schauffele (2014)
* Jordan Spieth (2011)
* Tony Finau (2007)
* Collin Morikawa (2018)
* Michael Thompson (2007)
The Waste Management Phoenix Open has a rich history of showcasing some of the best amateur golfers from around the world. This tradition provides amateur golfers with a valuable opportunity to showcase their skills and gain valuable experience, making it an important event for the future of golf.
If playing in front of tens of thousands heckling fans around the 16th hole doesn't toughen you up as a golfer, nothing will.
While researching this article, we came up with a little (and somewhat sad) Phil Mickelson tidbit. Had he completed just two holes today, "Lefty" -- now a member of the LIV Tour and intelligible to play on the PGA Tour -- would have set the record for the most holes ever played at the Phoenix Open. Here is the list as it stands today:
107: Gene Littler
106: Phil Mickelson
93: Tom Purtzer
92: Mark Calcavecchia
91: Kenny Perry
87: Jim Ferrier
86: Paul Azinger
86: Don January
85: Jerry Barber
84: Billy Mayfair