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Did the WM Phoenix Open's 16th-hole celebrations cross a line?

The First Call readers express varied opinions on the fans' reactions to two hole-in-one shots at the 2022 WM Phoenix Open's par-3 16th stadium hole

Waste Management Phoenix Open 2022
Xander Schauffele tees off at TPC Scottsdale's 16th hole during the 2022 WM Phoenix Open, which featured two electrifying aces by Sam Ryder and Carlos Ortiz that triggered beer-throwing celebrations by the gallery.

> Question of the Week (Feb. 14-20): What is your opinion on the party atmosphere at the WM Phoenix Open's par-3 16th hole and whether celebrations for aces made by Sam Ryder (third round) and Carlos Ortiz (final round) crossed a line? 

I don't see how this can be a good thing as the following players have to use the putting surface that now has had random water on it and maybe dents from the debris. Surely all sports fans should be strongly dissuaded from throwing things onto the sporting arena. Can't see that this adds anything to golf.

Terence Smith 
Anglesey, North Wales

That chaotic scene on Sunday at the 16th hole was the most disgraceful scene I have ever witnessed on a golf course. Not only was it disgraceful but it was dangerous. I am amazed no one was hurt with those flying beer cans and assorted drinks. How about the disruption regarding the rest of the golfers playing behind that group? Absolutely no need for that. It has gotten way out of hand.

Arthur Buonopane
Winchester, Mass.

Definitely over the line due to safety concerns. A beer can to the head could be lethal. 

Jack Miller
Plano, Texas

Celebrations on 16 do not cross the line as long as they only happen once a year on the PGA Tour.

Mike Langley 
St. Thomas. Ontario

Everyone has their perspective on this tournament, and I respect it. The game of golf has many rules and is played by gentlemen of integrity, in both their manners and how they protect the game. In my opinion there is no room for what happens at this tournament. Each year it pushes the envelope and you saw what happened this year. If the organizers want to denigrate the game, then things will continue as they have been.

Fordan Bonardi
Stonington, Conn.

The WM’s 16th Hole has become a caricature of itself.

Clearly, the celebrations are now out of control. Patrick Cantlay’s Sunday putt was almost certainly affected by damage to the green caused by a fan’s can. Fortunately, he recovered to save par.

The crowd reaction is also now overdone. There is booing, for booing’s sake. Sometimes a mediocre shot is hit, which warrants little, if any, significant reaction. Or, a silly shirt lift by Henry Higgs warranted more debris?

There was a time that the 16th hole was fun to watch. No longer, projectiles are needlessly launched, jeopardizing players, caddies and others, along with the the condition of the green.

Steve Rosenbaum
Oak Lawn, Ill.

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your question of the day. I am a lifelong golf professional, readying for retirement in a couple of years. I was very impressed with the amount of infrastructure buildout at TPC Scottsdale, holes 16 through 18. An incredible amount of spectators can enjoy the golf played by very talented PGA Tour professionals. I am OK with the crowds enjoying themselves and the players seem to be OK with the noise level and interaction with the spectators.

I think the PGA Tour and/or tournament organizers need to step up some security if we are to continue with the current form of spectator facilities at TPC Scottsdale. If someone threw a full beverage container onto an NBA court or at an MLB dugout or at an NFL sideline or into an NHL rink or team bench, that person would surely be escorted out. Same should happen at WMPO or any other Tour event for that matter.

Tom Kinsman
Lloydminster, Saskatchewan

Throwing beer and beer cans — and who knows what else — onto the 16th green at the WM Phoenix Open was a display of adolescent foolishness mixed with a misuse of alcohol. I can’t believe that Waste Management, which is all about no litter, would allow that. Sure, it’s great to have a hole in one, and it's great to see one, but that behavior was unacceptable. As an organizer of a major international junior golf tournament, I shudder to think what this activity shows our up-and-coming junior golfers. Let’s hope that WM and the Thunderbirds do something about this for future events. The WM Phoenix Open is a great event, and we were delighted that one of our former Little People’s players, Scottie Scheffler, won this year, but golf isn’t meant to be a circus — and that’s what this was. I hate to think what our golfing forefathers, who wore ties and coats, would think of this gentleman’s game.

Nan Ryan
Quincy, Ill.
Note: Ryan is founder and executive director of the Pepsi Little People’s Golf Championships.

At the risk of sounding like a cranky old get-off-my-lawn man, what I saw crossed a line. Simply being loud after a hole-in-one is more than fine. And whooping it up after such an accomplishment is fun to watch. Another benefit of a raucous celebration is it dispels the notion that golf is a staid activity.

What’s not fun is the very real possibility that a golfer, volunteer or fellow spectator could get hurt by a flying beer can. That’s not an over-speak either. A thrown beer can — either full or partially full — is heavy enough to seriously injure someone who is hit by it. That’s not where the problem with ends either. The putting green that gets covered with beer and dinged up from cans hitting it places the golfers playing after these outbursts at a competitive disadvantage. As we see every week on tour, the margin between winning or not is razor thin and someone who has the bad luck to be playing after something like this is literally penalized for actions they had no hand in bringing on. It’s not fair to them. 

For me a loud celebration is fun. Not fun is throwing something in the direction of someone that could hurt them or damage the playing surface. 

Paul Heanue
Plymouth, Mass.

A bit over the top, but c’mon it only happens for anything like a hole-in-one and that’s pretty rare. It was mentioned elsewhere that mandating plastic cups would resolve the worst of the issues and simultaneously provide a merchandising opportunity, which I think would be a great resolution..

After all, it’s the WMPO — a once-a-year get-yer-ya-yas-out. Let’s not stifle it.

Peter Croppo
Bayfield, Ontario

I absolutely love the atmosphere at the WM. But I love it only once a year. I love the atmosphere of a Stableford format, but only once a year. And I love match play, but only once or twice a year. As long as you keep them as special events, people will get excited.

Mike Bruckner
Allentown Pa.

Since we seem to have devolved as a society, this is just a reflection of the madness in today's world. It sells? Meh.

Rob Thompson
Puyallup, Wash.

With the exception of Amy Bockerstette, the spectacle on the 16th makes mud wrestling and dog fighting look refined and classy. What an embarrassing WASTE.

Rick Hamilton
Reston, Va.

I think the party atmosphere on 16 is great and draws thousands of fans who otherwise would not attend. I do think the throwing of bottles, cans, etc. is excessive and needs to be stopped. It is too much and will lead to more excessive behavior there and at other tournaments. This will be tough to stop, but they need to stop it.  

Bill House
Amesbury, Mass.

I find it difficult to understand the shock and apparent outrage that many writers and golfers have at the unfortunate beer can-throwing incident at the WM Phoenix Open. This is the only golf outing where fans are allowed, even encouraged to cheer like they do at a football/baseball/basketball/hockey game.  Throwing stuff is unfortunately the logical next step to be anticipated in a sport where golfing fans, who are normally instructed to keep silent and still for the players, are allowed to act out and engage in rowdy behavior.

What I find most surprising is the fact that fans had cans to throw.  I have attended dozens of sporting events over the last few years, and in none of them are the fans allowed to retain the bottle or can in which the beer is served. That includes attending many PGA golf events here in the New York / New Jersey area.   

I believe that the WM Phoenix Open experienced the old "hoist on their own petard." It encouraged excessive drinking and rowdy behavior, but are shocked that some unfortunate fans, in 80-degree weather, drank their fill and acted out.

I certainly do not condone the throwing of full cans of beer on the field of play, but the PGA Tour and WM Phoenix Open have to accept their part in the spectacle. They lit the fuse by allowing and encouraging drinking and bad behavior, and are then shocked that the bomb went off.

Raymond Ryan
Pompton Lakes, N.J.

It was terrible. I understand drinking at a golf tourney, but don’t throw stuff on the course just because the other drunk idiot next to you did. Have some class and respect for the course, the game, the incredible players and mostly yourself.

Be better than that.

Julio Padilla
Burr Ridge, Ill.

Although what happened at TPC Scottsdale was very entertaining, it created a potentially dangerous situation. What started out many years ago as a very boisterous crowd has turned into a lawsuit waiting to happen.

The media is partly to blame. The announcers talk about how great it is for the game, and that only encourages [the behavior]. Each year the crowds are intent on out doing the previous years patrons.

If let go, it will result in harm being done to a fan or a participant. It is the same old story of excess. Once the right to do this has been given, there is no half throttling, but if you take it away some will say the tournament is not what it used to be and will possibly tune out. There are no winners.

Donnie Thomas
Gainesville, Fla.

I don't mind the party atmosphere. The cheering/booing, depending on the shot, is pretty funny. But throwing bottles and cans on the course is crossing the line in a huge way. I also can't help but think what the outrage would be if it was a different set of people behaving that way. I believe the announcers would have had a field day about golf etiquette and behavior and the tournament would have made an announcement about throwing objects on the course. I hope the Tour takes steps to prohibit this.

Paul Brown
Gaithersburg, Md.

The atmosphere created at the WM Phoenix Open is incredible for the energy and fan engagement that has never been seen before. The ability to attract massive crowds is testimony to how well received it is by golf Fans. The Tour and Thunderbirds need to keep adapting and protecting the players and caddies from the possibility of beer cans striking them and causing an injury. Switch to plastic cups, keep the beer sales up and move forward.

Heath Wassem
Mount Kisco, N.Y.

I think it is important to engage your audience in any business, especially golf that teeters on the edge every year. I think setting up the amphitheater is great drama and good for the game. They should, however, change how they dispense liquids on that hole and give them cups that can’t be thrown very far. When you are allowed to toss a fully loaded plastic bottle or beer that could unintentionally hit a player, caddy or volunteer, that should not be allowed. Safety comes first and that was not a safe work environment, just ask OSHA. 

Hugh Rundle
Webster, N.Y.

Once a year I guess the 16th hole is fun and exciting. The excessive drinking and hole-in-one celebrations will eventually lead to someone falling out of the stands. The tournament is riding a fine line between what is appropriate and what is not.

Jimmy O’Malley
Needham, Mass.

It's great fun and different, but when they start throwing stuff, that is way over the line and needs to stop. Styrofoam cups, etc. and anyone seen throwing stuff gets kicked out and banned, let's say, for five years.

Michael J. Kirby
Schaumburg, Ill.

Almost every other sport allows spectators to cheer for their team or players without silencing them. The players should be able to handle the cheers or boos while playing their sport. The fans are buying the products that allow these players to make millions.

Steve Klesic

Way over the top. Very surprised that the tournament allowed it to happen a second time. Also surprised that for what a can of beer costs at these events that the fans threw them. Whoop and holler all you want. Throw something and you are gone. 

Jim Branchick
Lyon Township, Mich.

In my opinion, the reactions by the crowd were too far over the top and unacceptable for both safety and pace-of-play concerns. In the future, the tournament needs to put up safety fences to prevent beer cans and other debris from being hurled onto the golf course.

Randy Mertens
Brevard, N.C.

I’ve been on No. 16 three times and it absolutely is one of the best experiences in sports. I watched the celebration on TV this year and I compared it to a hat trick in hockey, when fans throw their hats on the ice afterwards. A hole-in-one is a very rare occurrence and think it’s OK to whoop it up. Hard to believe they had two this year when the last one was in 2015. 

Kevin Dahill
Countryside Ill.

Beer on greens ... thumbs down.

Phil Campoli
Willowbrook, Ill.

Not a fan of this act of stupidity. Let’s see them try something like this at Augusta. Bye-bye. 

Paul Vicary
The Villages Fla.

Disgraceful. I will not watch.

Larry Guli
Charlotte. N.C.

The only problem with the wild and crazy 16th hole at the WM Phoenix Open is the unrestricted throwing of beer cans and water bottles. And the only concern about this aspect of the celebration is player and spectator safety. Waste Management should prohibit this activity, but leave the rest alone.  Watching that hole every year is huge fun for fans and, I suspect, players as well.  

Paul Rankin
Annapolis, Md.

It’s the "Animal House” of the PGA Tour.

John Hornung
Hampstead, N.C.

I find it hard to believe what I watched on TV — fans throwing beer cans onto the green and surrounding areas. In any other sport that I can think of, any fan throwing something onto the field of play would be immediately ejected. With golf considered to be a gentleman’s sport, I can’t believe nothing was done and appeared to be accepted. It is fine to party and have a good time at this hole, this I can accept, but throwing beer cans onto the field of play, with players and support people in range, more than just a black eye for professional golf — a total embarrassment for our game.

Richard Burton
Wilmington, N.C.

What kind of question is this? The party atmosphere at the 16th hole is f---ing stupid and, yes, it crossed a line. Is there another legitimate viewpoint? It’s a short, flat, boring par 3 with no water element or dramatic feature of any kind — unless you count dodging projectiles from the grandstands. What could it possibly be that causes fans to get so excited there I wonder? 

John Cullen
La Quinta, Calif.

I can see people celebrating but the throwing of beer cans and water bottles caused a delay and backed up the golfers. I would not be surprised to see nets installed in front of the stands to prevent objects being throw onto the course. Great tournament, fun to watch.

Tom Schnurstein
Wheaton, Ill.

I attended the WMPO on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 with a friend of mine. He and I did sit at the 16th hole for about 45 minutes in the early afternoon. We had a great time. Tremendous atmosphere. As far as Saturday and the ace by [Sam] Ryder that erupted the 16th hole, to start, no one was hurt or injured. The green was clear when the beer and water started flying.  

Do you remember back in 1975 when Roger Staubach threw to Drew Pearson in a playoff game vs. the Minnesota Vikings in the infamous "Hail Mary" game? I bring this up since the referees were pelted with beers and booze bottles because they didn't call offensive pass interference since Pearson did push off. How about going to a Cleveland Browns game. The fans in the Dawg Pound would throw batteries at the opposing players. I only say this since, once again, no one was injured.  If anyone would have been hit, the volunteers and marshals were the ones in the direct path.  

Who are the winners of that event? The vendors who are selling beer and water for $10 each. Talk about price gauging. This year the event returned to full attendance. Look at the number of attendees and how it uplifted the Arizona economy. My friends and I were talking about it on Saturday morning after our round. We speculate that the WMPO brought in about $500 million to the State of Arizona. That is tremendous. Who benefits? I specifically don't know. However, I am sure that some monies will trickle down to schools, roads and other related necessities. I volunteer at a local golf course, Johnson Ranch, and I love the game. Let the players and fans have their fun. After all, if the event is fun, the fans and players will keep coming back. Also, bring back the caddie races. Just make the path safe for the caddies to run.  

Tom O'Toole
San Tan Valley, Ariz.

Other than throwing objects and then the ensuing delay of play, it was fun to watch. If and when the next hole-in-one occurs, put up signs, prior to fans entering the bleacher area, stating violators will be asked to leave the bleachers [if caught throwing objects].

Larry Gullick
Rio Verde, Ariz.

The Wasted Management Open is a farce, a blemish, a huge stain on golf, in general, and the PGA Tour, specifically. While I’m sure there are some older and maybe many younger golfers who think that party is fine, if not great, the majority of golfers don’t want those shenanigans on their course or in their town.

The worst impact is upon non-golfers who see clips of "golf" fans throwing full beer cans. We have enough problems and issues with a perception that golf is for older, richer, whiter men in carts and we don't need to add that golf is for younger, drunk, rowdy rioters.

Thanks for the opportunity to blow a little steam.

Mark Chatfield

For me there is no place in the game of golf for the actions of the so-called fans at the 16th hole during the two hole-in-one shots. Most of them are there just to get bombed anyway. It is amazing that no one was injured. I’m all for enjoying the atmosphere but to what extent?

Harry Lovero
Scottsdale, Ariz.

As so often happens, what is allowed gets pushed to the limit. I can accept the rowdy cheering and boos as long as they are quiet during the golfer's setup for the shot. Throwing debris on the course is beyond acceptable. Some of those cans were full, which makes it a dangerous projectile. It should not be allowed.

Mark Wisness

Greatest thing is when Sam Ryder aced 16, the announcer said you have to put this event on your bucket list.

I am a strong believer of the Thunderbird organization. Why doesn’t anyone write an article on what the Thunderbirds do for many charities, how they give back to help others. In today’s world, the press gets off on the negatives and can stir up a reaction and who knows what they say is even true.

I live here and have gotten involved in this tournament for over 20 years. You definitely have to come out to WM and see how the Thunderbirds work hard for the success of this tournament. Also, who else deserves high recognition is the volunteers, law enforcement, firefighters and paramedics.

Oh, you want to have fun ... the Super Bowl is here next year and I hope the WM is the same time as it has been in the past.

Gary Peigh
Scottsdale, Ariz.

I loved the reaction. First, what are the odds of an ace at a PGA Tour event? Maybe one over the four-day tournament? Second, the WMPO 16th is the only hole of any tournament where typical golf etiquette is thrown out the door — players encourage fans to cheer while teeing off and boo for poor shots.

Lastly, the players know the atmosphere when they choose to play this tournament and the fans know the raucous possibilities when they sit in the erected stadium seats at the beginning of the day. It’s not unlike a Cubs fan in the bleachers at Wrigley Field throwing an opponent’s home run ball back onto the field of play. As long as the beverage cans are tossed in an effort to avoid hitting someone, let the rare hole-in-one be celebrated.

Mark Hirt
Barrington, Ill.

I think that the 16th is fine for an annual event, but a weekly diet of the chaos is not needed. Golf has always been a stiff game but this gives it an annual lift of fun and most of the players seem to enjoy it. Full cans of beer in the air is a problem, but I am sure the Thunderbirds will work to rectify that in the future. So as a 70-year-old, 60-year golfer, carry on with the 16th shenanigans.

Jerry Garvey
Scranton, Pa.

On one hand I think it is great for the game. On the other hand I would not want to see this atmosphere at many other events, if any.

Dan Casanta
Southbury, Conn.

The atmosphere at the WM Phoenix Open is unique and exciting for golf. Attendance at this tournament has been the highest on the PGA Tour for several years. I’ve attended this event for the last 10 years. Both the golfers and the fans love the stadium venue of the 16th hole. It’s rowdy and loud, and everyone has a great time. The rare hole-in-one gets a celebratory beer shower, but WM knows how to clean it up quickly and move on. If you haven’t attended, you should. You’ll love it.

Kurt Weingand
Phoenix, Ariz.

Celebrations, as they are now, need to be stopped. Someone is going to be hurt.

Sean Carroll 
Westbrook, Conn.

It was fun when the crowd was a little rowdy 10 years ago. I really think that it has gotten way out of control. There is really no place in golf for that kind of behavior or the destructive reactions to a great shot. Like everything else small doses are OK, but it is really time to tone it down. The problem is this behavior carries over to other tournaments where nobody really cares for it. Now it’s starting to become the norm. 

Tom Ward
Philadelphia, Pa.

I think it’s gotten out of hand, especially with the beer cans. Just a matter of time before someone gets hurt. Plus Patrick Cantlay’s putt later in the round slowed down considerably — probably from a beer can hitting the green.

I don’t mind the noise. The booing is funny after a bad shot. Maybe ban the beer cans and sell paper cups instead. 

Mike Cassidy
Secane, Pa. 

The celebration at the Phoenix Open’s 16th hole was way out of line and easily could have caused serious injury to a player or volunteer. The fact that the announcers ignored that possibility was sadly irresponsible. Sign of the times we live in. 

Rick Slack
Chester Springs, Pa.

A bit of craziness does help the psyche of the attendants. However, what happened Saturday and Sunday [at the WM Phoenix Open] was well beyond that when the patrons trashed the golf course.

Golf is, for 90% of the people, a fun time with friends. It's time for the PGA Tour to reign in destruction.

Ed Labedz 
Orland Park, Ill.

I am an over-60, lifelong golfer who has embraced the less stodgy golf today's player may enjoy. I love the party atmosphere that the WM Phoenix Open embraces and encourages. That said, I believe the crowd behavior this past week crossed the line.

Roy Johnson

I was there both days — have been attending since the '70s when the event was still in Phoenix — and strongly support the 16th hole set up. However, the throwing of cans, cups and ice is a step too far. They need to announce in advance of next year that anyone throwing an item from the stands or skyboxes will be evicted and/or arrested. If hundreds do it, stop the tournament and empty the entire skyboxes — all 17,000 attendees if that is what it takes.

Robb McCreary
Scottsdale, Ariz.

Last week you asked if the Tour needed more spice. Phoenix delivered. Raucous, indecorous, an embarrassing spectacle for this most proper of sports? Screw it ... this was fun, providing an adrenaline rush we rarely see.

Delays aside, players love it and embrace it.

Gary Stauffenberg
Phoenix, Ariz.

I was there. It was extraordinary. I don’t believe the celebration caused any significant time delay. The players are well aware of what happens — or can happen — at that hole. No line crossed, not yet at least. By the way, at $10 per can of beer, a fairly expensive celebration.

Darren Housel
Gilbert, Ariz.

Once a year the fans get to party and celebrate. They have lots of booze and have even more fun. Let it go. It's not the Masters, but fun to watch. And when an ace is recorded, well, all hell breaks loose. There is a time and place and this is both.

James Clarke
Cambria, Calif.

The WM Phoenix Open always has been an entertaining diversion from the overall staidness of golf. However, this year’s tournament was a shot that leaped out of bounds. Tossing beer cups and other debris on the 16th hole after a hole-in-one is the kind of naughtiness that is hardly befitting of golf. 

Unfortunately, the raucousness seems to extend beyond the 16th hole. The yelling and cajoling of players while they are preparing for a shot, or are standing over a putt, or the blasting of party music, as best as I can tell from TV, distracts players on 17 and 18, and perhaps elsewhere on the course. Have fun, but preserve the decorum for players who are earning a living, and are not there to amp up the revelry of a weekend.

Howard L. Murphy
Gretna, La.

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