The 2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open drew 55,654 fans for its final round, bringing the total attendance for the week to 655,434 and shattering the all-time PGA Tour attendance record by over 37,000 fans.
The previous PGA Tour attendance record of 618,365 was set at last year’s Phoenix Open.
The Phoenix Open began in 1932, but the tournament was discontinued after the 1935 event in the irony of all ironies, due to lack of local support. It was revived by Bob Goldwater, Sr., who brought in his friends at the Thunderbirds to run the event and Byron Nelson won that year at Phoenix Country Club.
When the tournament was held at Phoenix Country Club, the top attendance mark was 186,000 in 1986 and it has morphed into what the event it is now in no small part to its move the fan-friendly venue at TPC Scottsdale.
For example, this year’s Phoenix Open had a Saturday crowd of 204,906!
One of the most remarkable things about this event’s popularity and its annual spot as the highest attended PGA Tour tournament is that it is always on the same weekend as the Super Bowl.
In 1996, the tournament was played Wednesday through Saturday, as Super Bowl XXX between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers was held at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.
Wednesday’s attendance topped Sunday’s by 25,000 fans and very few sports fans were able to see the playoff between Hideki Matsuayam and Webb Simpson as it overlapped into the start of Super Bowl LI. This is not the first time this happened following the 2009 Phoenix Open when Kenny Perry and Charley Hoffman went to a playoff that coincided with the beginning of Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa that actually featured the Arizona Cardinals.
It only makes sense that the PGA Tour and Phoenix Open officials at least explore the idea of making this a Weds-Sat event on a yearly basis.
The thought of the event’s final round being played in front of a crowd of over 200,000 fans on Saturday at TPC Scottsdale and the increased television ratings should also help those conversations get past the starting point.
One thing is guaranteed, this year’s attendance record would be a thing of the past.