Waste Management Phoenix Open 2016 Recap and Highlights
Hideki Matsuyama captured the 2016 waste management Phoenix open in a sudden death playoff against Rickie Fowler.
Matsuyama, who started the final round three strokes back at 10 under, rallied to finish his Sunday round with a four-under 67, creating the sudden death playoff with Fowler.
–Phil Mickelson besting Justin Leonard in 1996.
–Sandy Lyle edging out Fred Couples in 1988.
Back Nine Battle
The playoff was the result of some heated back and forth battles between Fowler and Matsuyama as they wrestled for the lead on the back nine.
The loss gives Fowler a record of 2-2 in career playoffs. Both of his losses took place in this tournament, the last one at Grayhawk in 2009.
Fowler was on his game Sunday as he chipped in from 55 feet on number 10 to get to 12 under par and take the lead.
At 17, Matsuyama chipped it close and converted for a birdie, moving in to a tie with Fowler.
Fowler got into trouble on the same hole when he drove his approach through the green, and then barely missed a par putt.
Tied heading into 18, Fowler was sitting 95 yards out after a monster drive.
He dropped it above the hole a few feet away. Matsuyama did not fare as well, leaving his approach shot 17 feet from the cup.
He stayed the course and dropped the putt for a birdie.
Fowler caught the edge for a birdie and they headed back to the 18th tee for a playoff.
After both players made par on the first playoff hole, Fowler birdied the second playoff hole from 14 feet, putting the pressure once again on Matsuyama.
Also sitting 14 feet out, Matsuyama once again met the challenge by dropping his putt for birdie.
On the 10th hole, the third in the playoff, both players made par, and they headed on to the 17th hole.
Fowler hit it in the lake, and missed a par putt for bogie. Matsuyama needed only to tap it in for a par and the win.
Plays to His Strengths
The Waste Management Phoenix Open plays to Matsuyama’s strengths as he won in only his third start here, and finished in the top five the previous two times he toured the track.
He tied for second in 2015 and tied for fourth in 2014.
Matsuyama’s victory echoed his previous tour victory in 2014 at the Memorial Tournament in Columbus, Ohio when he erased a two-stroke deficit on Sunday and overpowered Kevin Na in the sudden death playoff.
The Waste Management victory makes him the sixth player in the past seven years to come from the back of the pack in the final round and capture the tournament.
Matsuyama is on a hot streak.
This win is the eighth time he has finished in the top five in 29 tournaments he has played since the beginning of the season last year.
That gives him the current record, while Jason Bohn is second in this category with six top-five finishes.
Matsuyama is off to a fine start for the 2015-2016 season, capturing this win in his fifth start, besting his previous best finish this year: fifth-place at the CIMB Classic.
He garners 500 points in the FedExCup competition, moving him from 74 to slot number 11 on that leaderboard.
Here are some examples of points needed to qualify for different events related to the FedExCup: in 2014-2015 a player needed 458 points to achieve PGA Tour playoffs qualification, 554 for the Deutsche Bank Championship, the BMW Championship required 692 and a player had to surpass 1062 to qualify for the Coca-Cola sponsored TOUR Championship.
Tournament on the Rise
The Waste Management Phoenix open is a bright spot in the world of golf.
In opposition to recent stories in the media about a supposed downturn in the golf industry, the Phoenix Open puts up impressive numbers.
Nearly 30,000 people came to the practice round on Tuesday, traditionally a day when attendance is low.
The next day, also a practice day, attendance climbed to 58,000.
Once the tournament began on Thursday, more than 100,000 people came through the turnstiles.
That number was blown away on Friday when over 160,000 people attended.
Once the weekend came — and people did not have to sneak out of work — attendance rocketed to an amazing 201,000 people on Saturday, possibly the biggest one-day attendance number in the long and storied history of the sport.
This is the third year in a row that the tournament has set a record on Saturday.
After three days of the 2014 competition, 502,776 people had come through the gates.
That year almost 190,000 golf fans attended the Saturday round.
If you considered that day as a “city” in Arizona, it would have been the 8th most populated in the state.
By the end of the tournament, over 618,000 people had come through the turnstiles, smashing the number recorded in 2015 of 564,368.
In comparison, the British Open at the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews, attracted 237,000 people in July of last year.
Millions for Charity
The impressive attendance figures have translated into millions of dollars for local charities.
Since 2004, the tournament has generated more than $60 million for charity — $86 million total in its eight-decade history.
The organizer of the tournament is the Thunderbirds charity group.
Started in 1937 by the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, the name is derived from the Thunderbird emblem that represents the chamber.
The Thunderbirds decided to start a golf tournament, and the Phoenix Open has grown each year since.
Charities who benefit from the millions of dollars collected by the Thunderbirds include the Boys and Girls Clubs of Phoenix, East Valley and Scottsdale; the Special Olympics; and United Way associated with the Valley of the Sun.
Last year, the Thunderbirds distributed $9 million to their various charities, nearly all of the money generated by the tournament. Based on the record attendance, officials expect that total to go up this year.
In addition to the Phoenix Open, the organization sponsors a college competition called the Thunderbird Collegiate Invitational.
Several of today’s well-known stars including Corey Pavin, Notah Begay, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have all played in the tournament.
The Thunderbirds also stage the Thunderbird International Junior Tournament which is played at Grayhawk Golf Club, a well-respected event that invites the best American and International players.
Bubba Watson Booed
The Waste Management Phoenix Open tournament is known for its boisterous crowd, and they were true to form when they booed Bubba Watson for some comments he made about playing in Phoenix.
Earlier in the week, he stated that he doesn’t like the course at all.
His distaste really began after Tom Weiskopf redesigned the course before tournament play last year.
Weiskopf had modified the surface of the greens and changed the shape of several bunkers, as well as made the course longer and narrower.
Watson gave one example of his displeasure: the par-4 14th, which now stretches 490 yards up a hill.
He told reporters he didn’t see a need to change it from where it was, and the tighter configuration made it “goofier.”
Whatever he felt about the course layout, he really got on the bad side of many fans when he said he was only playing in the tournament due to commitments to sponsors.
Many wondered how the raucous crowd would accept these comments.
That question was answered on Thursday when he came to the signature 16th hole, famed for its rock concert like atmosphere.
He was booed mercilessly. Watson was undeterred – he birdied the hole and closed out the first day of the round at two under par.
McIlroy Seeks Secrets of Success
In the end, it was an exciting finish for a tournament that has risen to star status on the PGA tour.
The Phoenix area is well-known as a world-class golf destination, and golfers and golf fans show up in droves for their local PGA event.
With unparalleled weather, blue skies, and now a tougher course, the level of play will only get better over the next few years.
Despite the complaints of stars like Bubba Watson, others like Rory McIlroy are interested in how the Thunderbirds have made it such a big hit.
McIlroy’s foundation leader met with Phoenix Open officials to get some ideas on how they can duplicate their success for the Rory Foundation’s hosting of the Irish Open later this spring.
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