The biggest celebration of golf on the planet is in full roar. More than 500,000 golf fans will head to the Waste Management Phoenix Open this week, creating an electric environment unlike any other in golf.
While a lot of focus will be on those spectators, inside the ropes even more excitement is brewing as the PGA Tour settles in to the 2010 season, with many story lines unfolding.
Seven of the top 10 players from the FedEx Cup standings will be at the TPC Scottsdale, making this a star-studded affair. While just three of those players (Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer) are ranked in the top eight in the world, it still makes for a strong contingent vying for the (USD) 1.08 Million first prize.
Undoubtedly, Ian Poulter, coming off his win last week at the Accenture Match Play, will garner a lot of attention as he tries to win his second PGA Tour title, and Phil Mickelson returns after a week of personal time, but the player to watch might just be J.B. Holmes.
With wins here in 2006 and 2008, and a number of strong finishes of late, you can expect Holmes to repeatedly bring the crowd to its feet. His immense length helps him to overpower this par 71; 7214-yard layout where he can pick apart the average length par fives and reduce many of the par fours into three-shot holes on a regular basis.
Of course Holmes will need to make plenty of birdies as there is never any shortage of them at TPC Scottsdale. With the course record of 60 shared by three men (Phil Mickelson, Grant Waite, and Mark Calcavecchia) you know you will have to go low here to complete.
Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish created a compelling course full of opportunities, rewards, and potential disasters at The Stadium Course and it provides plenty of entertainment value. It is part of what makes this event a spectator favorite.
In 2009 Kenny Perry became the oldest winner in Waste Management Phoenix Open history. At age 48 years, 3 months, and 21 days he defeated Charley Hoffman in a playoff. He will return to this event for the 23rd time this year in defense of the title and should not be counted out. Over those years he has made the cut 17 times and been inside the top 10 six times.
Additional players to watch include three-time champion Mickelson, adopted local resident Michael Sim of Australia, as well as Ryan Moore and Matt Kuchar who both tied for 6th here in 2009.
And youthful sensation Ricky Fowler will have the company of peers (age-wise at least) this week. The 4-spot Monday Qualifier was lead by two amateurs, the highly touted Phil Francis and the lesser known Braxton Marquez. Expect Francis, who transferred from UCLA to ASU, to possibly make his presence known.
For the ninth straight year The Thunderbirds (tournament hosts) will honor the men and women who actively serve in law enforcement, fire prevention, and the Armed Forces by inviting them to the tournament free of charge, including an accompanied guest.
The top rookies in the field include Fowler, Matt Every, Graham Delaet, and Derek Lamely.
There will be players in the field representing 13 countries.