Phoenix Open:~Building A Better Tournament

Not all tournaments are created equal. Here are four big things tour events can do to make every week feel like the Phoenix Open.

1. Turn up the pressure.
If you watch PGA Tour promos, you’d think every golf course scares these guys.

PGA National has the stretch of holes that they hype as “The Bear Trap.” Innisbrook, host of the Transitions Championship, countered with “The Snake Pit.” But these are the best players in the world; they’re used to difficult courses.

When you watch the Waste Management Phoenix Open, you’ll find out that what these guys actually fear is very primal: the feeling that “everyone is looking at me.” That’s what really makes the 16th at TPC Scottsdale so intimidating. It’s not a challenging hole—you just have 20,000-plus sets of eyes on you. Other tournaments should create these kind of pressure-cooker situations, whether that’s building a grandstand absurdly close an 18th tee or letting fans follow the final group through the fairways. These dudes are playing for a million dollars every week; I want to see them physically shaking from the social pressure.

2. Encourage players to have fun.
Even when faced with this pressure, pros can counteract it by embracing the moment and catering to the fans. You know how spectators have a designated smoking area and a designated cell phone area? Tour pros should consider one hole their designated place to get weird. It’s their chance to stop acting like a bunch of stuffed shirts and start acting like human beings.

Some of the things that have happened on the 16th at the Phoenix Open: Tiger “raising the roof,” Ben Crane and Bubba Watson singing “Oh Oh Oh,” and Rickie Fowler gleefully throwing Puma gear into the stands. I’m not looking for giveaways or musical performances at every hole, but this is a game. It’s okay to show some personality.

3. Make charitable efforts ultra-competitive.
The pro tours are serious about charity—they donate millions every week—but I think the outreach could be amped up even more. Why not give spectators special perks if they donate to the charity of the week: earlier access on tournament days, reduced food and beverage prices or admission to post-round interviews?

Turn the PGA Tour schedule into a year-long competition to see who can raise the most money for a good cause. Then they could award that event with double FedEx Cup points or another prestigious perk for the following year.

4. Add some spectacle.
The Waste Management tournament calls itself “the greatest show on grass,” and cool events are taking that showmanship mentality to heart.

At the RBC Heritage, the defending champion hits a ceremonial first shot early in the week that’s perfectly synchronized with a cannon exploding. (See it here.)

At the Zurich Classic, they put on an exhibition with top players using old-timey hickory clubs. I’d like to see these unique ideas, but applied to the actual tournaments. Why couldn’t the John Deere Classic make players ride a tractor to the green on one of their holes? Why not encourage the players at the Sony Open in Hawaii to drink out of a coconut at the turn? I would pay to see these kinds of things—and the average golf tournament would become unforgettable.