Happy Gilmore grew the game & his legend lives on in Phoenix

John Craven
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Happy Gilmore grew the game & his legend lives on in Phoenix

Fans loving life in Scottsdale - Getty Images

I’m a firm believer that the only two ingredients needed for a great party are cold beer and loud music. This week’s PGA Tour host venue in Phoenix has both.

I’ve always loved the Waste Management Phoenix Open. I love the setting, the colour, the noise, and the crowd. And I especially love its par-3 16th, the famous stadium hole.

It’s not for everyone. I get that. It can be over the top, the reaction from the stands is often abrasive and a good chunk of the patrons are half-pissed. It’s probably a purist’s idea of hell; more chance of spotting a drunken spectator ablaze than a blazer. But that’s why this event welcomes over 700,000 people through the turnstiles each year where others don’t. In golf, there’s simply nothing like it.

The Phoenix Open is as close to Happy Gilmore as golf has dared to venture. The 1996 cult classic film introduced more new faces to the game than any modern missionary and the spirit of Gilmore’s golfing revolution lives on each year in Phoenix.

You won’t catch two big fat naked bikers in the woods off 17 having sex but then TPC Scottsdale is desert country and a cactus is not to be trifled with. Still, you’re as likely to be heckled as you are praised as you attempt to navigate the par-3 16th, and a field boasting the game’s #1 in Rahm, alongside the likes of Thomas, Koepka, Cantlay, Hovland, Spieth and Matsuyama proves that players are fine with that. Hell, they love it too.

I look forward to the Phoenix Open every year but this year I felt like I needed it. A shadow looms over golf at the minute. An uninspiring breakaway league that served up an atmosphere last week in Saudi more funeral than festive.

And I don’t care if players are offered a billion dollars to join a Super League. I remain adamant there’s still things money can’t buy, like the energy from a crowd that could power a small city. An electricity, at least on last week’s evidence, that these players will go without should they take the money and run. The same players who I bet fell in love with the game for the same reasons I did, emulating their heroes on the putting green of the local club and imagining the roar of their adoring fans when they hole the one to win The Open.

That’s the hope I cling to anyway, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe listening to the Red Sea breathe as another million lands in your bank account with each splash of its swell is heaven here on earth. Not for me though, a hopeless romantic fool of a golf fan who’d sooner join Chubbs in the one hand club and let a damn alligator bite my paw off than watch the soul being ripped from the sport because of “obnoxious greed”.

As Happy Gilmore told Bob Barker, the price is wrong, b*tch.

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