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Changes coming to WM Phoenix Open after chaotic weekend: ‘We have to make improvements’

Golf fans flock to Scottsdale, Arizona, every year for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which is well-known as the biggest party in the sport. 

But after a wild weekend in the desert, changes are coming to the “Greatest Show on Grass.” 

The Phoenix Open experienced overcrowding of the course on Saturday, which caused the suspension of admission and alcohol sales, and multiple videos of unruly fans went viral over the weekend. 

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“Due to steady rainfall in Scottsdale this week that created deteriorating course conditions, we unfortunately had to close the gates at the tournament entrance and stop allowing fans to enter the golf course on Saturday afternoon,” The Thunderbirds, the group that puts on the event, said in a statement. 

Chance Cozby, the executive director of The Thunderbirds, joined the Golf Channel on Monday and said there will be changes moving forward. 

“We’re going to make changes. I think everybody probably agrees, we have a very unique culture at our event,” Cozby said.  

“The fine line was really when we felt like we were just at a point on Saturday where our fans could not move around the golf course,” Cozby continued. “And at that moment, the right thing to do was to take the steps that we did.”

Cozby said leadership spent “five to six hours” on Saturday “brainstorming” the next steps, adding that they have “365 days to fix this.”

A picture of the 18th green at the Phoenox Open

“I think that you will see a complete operational change of how we manage, really our Friday and Saturday, but the entire week,” Cozby said. “We’re very proud of what we built. I think we’ve been tournament of the year on the PGA Tour five of the last seven years.

“But we don’t like what happened on Saturday. The players don’t like what happened on Saturday. Our fans don’t like what happened on Saturday. So, nothing is off the table. 

“We’re going to look at our just general admission ticket exposure and how many are out in the marketplace. We’re going to look at our complete security plan, and just how we operate. I think Saturday at the WM Phoenix Open in 2024 is gonna end up being a turning point for our tournament and our organization to make our event better. We learned so much. And we know that we have to make improvements.”

During the final round on Sunday, two videos of golfers snapping back at comments made by fans went viral. 

Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, got into it with a fan, prompting security to step in. 

Matt Fitzpatrick tees off

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“Don’t sir me, somebody said it. I’m just sick of it,” Johnson said to a gallery. “Just shut up.”

Shortly afterward, Billy Horschel confronted a fan who was speaking during someone else’s backswing.

“Buddy, when you’re told to shush, shut the hell up,” he said. “He’s trying to hit a golf shot here. It’s our f—— jobs.”

Fox News’ Ryan Morik contributed to this report.

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