“We’re recording this tonight. This is, after all, Sodom and Gomorrah better known as Phoenix.” In the noughties, having an MP3 player with just one album on it – Live in Arizona by A Perfect Circle – those words by frontman Maynard James Keenan were part of the daily soundtrack to my life.
The 16th at the Waste Management Open / Image from Getty Images
Now, every time the Waste Management Phoenix Open comes around, they emerge from the recesses of my memory. Keenan may not have been addressing the baying mob at the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale, but he could well have been.
Sodom and Gomorrah are, depending on which ancient or religious text you read, either cities in which all manner of sin were rife, or metaphors therefore. A sensationalist comparison this may be, but nonetheless, a certain level of behaviour is tolerated at the Stadium par-three that would not be tolerated on any other course or at any other tournament.
Sodom and Gomorrah were burned to the ground as an act of punishment to those who lived and defiled within their walls, and with each passing year, the metaphorical burning of the 16th hole crowd gets closer.
Now don’t get me wrong, in an event where people are queueing from 4am to get in and are being turned away by 7, the event is certainly doing something right.
It is not fair to tar every fan with the same brush, but there are certainly an elevated number of “fans” who are attending for whom the actual golf is of secondary or even less importance. But to blame the less appealing aspects solely on the alcohol consumed is missing the wider picture.
Beer is sold at every professional golf tournament I’ve ever been to. I’ve watched people over indulge (myself included), but I can’t recall many occasions where I’ve seen players being affected as a result.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case in Phoenix. But here is the hard truth. If you’re the type of person who is going to fill up on booze and shout obscenities at the top of someone’s backswing, yell out as they draw their putter back, or jeer wildly as they hit a poor shot under intense pressure, then that is not a “booze problem.” That is a “you” problem.
“You” are an asshole. Assholes are, unfortunately, a fact of life. They exist anywhere and everywhere. Rest assured, the same guy being an asshole at the 16th hole on Saturday afternoon, was being an asshole at a Superbowl party somewhere on Sunday evening.
The thing about assholes though, is that they adjust to mob mentality. In a group where assholes are the minority, an asshole – while still being an asshole – will often manage to blend in. But in groups with a larger cohort of assholes, they tend to run amok, buoyed by their kindred spirits, and they create a chaotic environment which often spoils the fun of anyone not similarly minded.
And that’s what is happening in Phoenix. The only thing to trump mob mentality is larger mob mentality. I’d wager that there are more people in the grandstands at 16 who are embarrassed by the taunts and jeers of the assholes than those taking part. It’s time they stood up and pointed out that they are there to have fun, but not to ruin anybody’s day.
There is only so much that officials (volunteers, more often than not) can do to thwart the nastiness of those often surrounded by like-minded idiots.
The crowd must begin to police themselves. If they don’t, and the descent into pandemonium continues, then the players (the marquee players who draw a crowd) may collectively decide to give Phoenix a miss.
In this instance, the players are God, and they will only tolerate Sodom and Gomorrah for so long.
Those cities are assigned to history. Scottsdale take note.