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The Phoenix Open began in 1932, but due to lack of local support, the tournament was discontinued after the 1935 event. The tournament was revived thanks to the energy and vision of one man, Bob Goldwater, Sr.. Goldwater, an avid golfer, cajoled his fellow Thunderbirds into running the event, and his persuasive manner was successful. So in 1939, Bob Goldwater’s new fledgling golf tournament was the official rebirth of the Phoenix Open.
Goldwater was left with most of the work, because his fellow Thunderbirds were not yet as enthusiastic about the event as he was. Never one to back down from a challenge, Goldwater printed the tickets, sold sponsorships and obtained use of Phoenix Country Club. He even invited a few of his friends to tee it up at the tournament. Those friends just happened to be Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and a golfer by the name of Ben Hogan.
“I loved those early years,” said Goldwater. “I look back on those days with a sense of pride mixed with wonderment.” And, yes, after a few more persuasive talks and the success of the 1939 Phoenix Open, The Thunderbirds came around and lent their full support.
During that 1939 tournament, a 27-year-old up-and-comer named Byron Nelson won the $700 first prize. Hogan finished second, 12 strokes back, and collected $450. Since then, The Thunderbirds have sponsored an Open every year except 1943, when wartime travel restrictions forced a one-year hiatus.
The list of professional golfers who have won in Phoenix reads like the golf Hall of Fame: Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Jimmy Demaret, Billy Casper, Gene Littler, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Miller Barber, Johnny Miller, Ben Crenshaw, and more recently Lee Janzen, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Tom Lehman, Mark Calcavecchia and Kenny Perry just to name a few.
Over the tournament’s 80 year history, the Open has been known by many names, including the Western Open, the Arizona Open, the Ben Hogan Invitational, the Phoenix Open, the FBR Open and now the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The tournament has been played at Phoenix Country Club, Arizona Country Club and the TPC Scottsdale. The TPC Scottsdale has been the home course of the tournament since 1987. 2015 will mark the 29th consecutive year the tournament has been played at the TPC Scottsdale. Aside from the TPC Sawgrass (31 years), TPC Scottsdale has the longest continuous stretch a Tournament Players Club has hosted a PGA TOUR event.
Thanks to the most fan-friendly tournament venue on the PGA TOUR, the Stadium Course at the TPC Scottsdale, the Open attracts the largest galleries of any golf tournament in the world. In fact, compared to the days when the tournament was held at Phoenix Country Club, and the top attendance mark was 186,000 (1986), the Open has grown by leaps and bounds. At the 2014 Waste Management Phoenix Open, a PGA TOUR record 563,008 fans attended the tournament, including 189,722 during Saturday’s third round alone.
As crowds have increased over the years at the Phoenix Open, so too has the tournament purse. Gone are the days of Byron Nelson’s $700 first place check, part of a $3,000 purse. Today, PGA TOUR stars compete for a $1,116,000 first place check, part of a $6,200,000 purse. The 1991 Phoenix Open marked the first time in tournament history that the purse reached $1 million. Nolan Henke won the 1991 tournament and pocketed $180,000 for his efforts. Fan favorite and three-time Phoenix Open winner Phil Mickelson leads the all-time Phoenix Open Money List with $3,694,782 earned through 24 tournament appearances. Two-time Phoenix Open Champion J.B. Holmes is second on the all-time money list with $2,274,780 earned through 8 tournament appearances.
For a closer look at past champions, tournament results, attendance as well as Open records and statistics, please visit the statistics and record book section under the Spectator Info tab on the website.