“The Thunderbirds continue to work closely with the PGA TOUR, local government and health officials in preparation to have limited fans at the 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open has been able to capture the wonder and amazement embodied by the great game of golf for the better part of a century. Take one step onto the course at TPC Scottsdale and you can feel the presence of the world’s greatest golfers from the past century like Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer. Their great achievements live on through the ambiance created by thousands of cheering fans eager to see hungry new athletes leave their own mark on history. The green grass, the beautiful February weather, the iconic saguaro cacti and the remarkable level of play are all reminders of where the game of golf has been and the great things the game has done for people around the globe.
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. An avid golfer, Goldwater persuaded his fellow Thunderbirds into running the event, and his influential 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, Kenny Perry, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler, just to name a few.
Over the tournament’s 85-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 TPC Scottsdale – the home course of the tournament since 1987 – and 2021 will mark the 34th consecutive year the tournament has been played at TPC Scottsdale. Aside from the TPC Sawgrass (32 years), TPC Scottsdale has the longest continuous stretch a Tournament Players Club has hosted a PGA TOUR event.
TPC Scottsdale is the most fan-friendly venue on the PGA TOUR and 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, routinely bringing in crowds in excess of 700,000 people for the week.
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.