February 26, 2024

My weekend at the Phoenix Open, Golf’s drunkest event

The sunburnt man wearing an FTX hat and a Topo Chico strawberry-guava hard seltzer in each hand was disappointed. “He’s not naked,” he said to no one in particular, with open disgust. “No pig.”

In front of him and 20,000 others in the stadium, a shirtless man had jumped from the stands and sprinted to the putting green. He performed a frontal somersault into a bunker and landed flat on his back, creating a sand angel as the crowd roared. He then darted between the police and the cacti, waving his arms along the way to get the crowd to cheer even more.

His performance pleased some. But this was Saturday at the 16th hole of Phoenix’s Waste Management Open, also known as the Loudest Day at the Loudest Hole in Golf, Also known as the greatest show on grass. At 1:28 p.m., the stadium’s sober visitors were already about seven drinks deep. They or their employers had – in some cases – paid good money down payment on a house money – to see something depraved. A streaker who was still wearing pants wouldn’t make it.

“Booooo!” shouted a man on the deck above me. “Take it all off!”

“Show your cock! Show your dick!” chanted a trio of gentlemen in their thirties – Vuori sweater, black Patagonia jacket and white Oxford – whose law firm had purchased seats in the box next to me.

But there wouldn’t be a pig in sight. The streaker was caught and arrested, prompting loud cheering; the crowd was furious when they saw justice being served.

The disappointment was short-lived. A few minutes later, a DJ set up on a tee box and began playing Creed’s “Take Me Higher” as a montage of Scott Stapp strolling around, F/A-18s taking off in “Top Gun: Maverick” and Iron Man flying played great on the Jumbotrons. It had the distinct tone of a hype video that a father with rudimentary skills in Final Cut would make for his 9-year-old son’s birthday, where the theme of the party was “Rad” — and it was. precisely what the grown men of the stadium wanted and needed. They watched in rapture as they sipped Coors Lights and High Noons and stacked them beer snake towards heaven.

A shirtless man holds one

Here we see the beer snake in its natural habitat.
Christian Petersen/Getty

“Scott Stapp, man,” a voice behind me said wistfully. “We will be right back.”

In theory, this was a professional golf tournament, one of the oldest on the PGA Tour. There was said to be a $9 million purse, and the winner would take home $1.5 million. Every now and then something would drift in from the periphery to suggest that golf might be real: there was a leaderboard, an NBC broadcast of the tournament being played behind every bar, and a group of hedge fund and private equity guys who made dozens made prop bets. and writing them on a white board that they seemed to have brought from the office. There were even flesh-and-blood golfers who passed by every few minutes, the crowd booing when their shot missed the green, and crawling, screeching, barking, growling and yapping as the ball headed toward the hole. How they had to see a ball go into that hole.

But in the haze of Topo Chico strawberry guavas, Miller Lites and vodka sodas, the weed, the rain and the mud, the hooting, hollering and grabbing, no one could be sure they were at a professional sporting event. Every other data point suggested that in reality they had ended up exactly where they wanted to be: a black hole of wild masculinity.

I was there as an inevitable consequence of being in an all-male group chat, its own black hole of wild masculinity. A Phoenix resident in our group of college friends had scored box seats at a discount. For months, the group had teased each other about how unhinged our pilgrimage would become, sharing snippets of obscene spectacles from years past on 16, along with stories of debauchery in the news cycle — the Alabama man who jumped naked into the Bass Pro Shop Aquarium , a resurfaced photo of George Bush drinking Michelob with mustachioed men – and the caption “us at 16.” We’ve even suggested an official cocktail for the trip, an amalgam of all the viral drinks from the past year: 1 part pumpkin spiced Dunkin, 1 part spiked Mountain Dew Baja Blast, 1 part Magical Penis Wine, shaken and filled with Panera’s Charged Lemonade .

Most of us are married with young children and almost old enough to run for president. None of us follow golf closely. But the tournament is infamous for a rodehis reputation for rowdiness seemed to multiply every year, and his indistinct siren song was too tempting to pass up.

Two people dressed as Oompa Loompas at the Phoenix Open.

My brothers in arms.
Orlando Ramirez/Getty

I could hear the vibrations as soon as I landed in Phoenix. In the 10 minutes I waited for my friend to pick me up, the entire pick-up area reverberated with daps, vigorous pats on the back, and chants of “the boys!” as carloads of the aforementioned boys reunited for the weekend.

The next morning, when our Lyft driver picked us up at 8 a.m., he said, “Welcome to the chaos, brothers.” He’d been escorting people to and from the tournament for more than a decade, and he had one piece of unsolicited advice: “Stay away from the assholes at BlackRock in the box seats and you’ll be fine.”

At the entrance, the tournament offered its only nod to decorum: a giant sign above an overpass that read RESPECT THE FANS. RESPECT THE PLAYERS. RESPECT THE GAME. More than 200,000 people would stumble under the sign; a few would adhere to it. Several thousand were queuing at the gate around 3am to take part in the running of the bulls at 5.30am, when the coveted entry seats opened up on 16.

At 10am we scanned into the stadium with our wristbands. While they echoed the flyover mantra, they were also our gateway to 10 highly poured alcoholic drinks, like a Livestrong bracelet that doubles as a vape pen. Also, the 10 drink limit was a very kind suggestion. Bartender after bartender said to group after group, “If you take care of me, I’ll take care of you.” I saw several men in their forties and fifties tipping hundred dollar bills after each round, and their wristbands were never scanned. For many, 10 quickly became 20, which became a urinal.

With drinks in hand, we set off to stroll the trail. Few watched golf; most huddled in circles many yards from the 16th hole, drinking and people-watching. Men conservatively outnumbered women 7 to 1. Numerous brothers wore the standard uniform of a golf cap, a quarter-zip sweater (often a barstool), and khaki pants. Every SEC team was well represented. There were men in skin-tight pink suits, Happy Gilmore Bruins jerseys and American flag shorts; four men dressed as Thomas Jefferson; a man standing alone in a camouflage hoodie with “Assholes Live Forever” on the back; men in MAGA hats and BlackRock hats; men in their forties in jungle animal onesies; and a bachelor party full of men wearing red chef hats that read “Let Him Cook.” The overall scene was similar to Mardi Gras and the “ass to ass” scene in “Requiem for a Dream.”

A man dressed as a founding father takes a selfie

This is what the Founding Fathers fought for.
Ross D. Franklin/AP

As I strolled through the crowd, I heard a succession of things that forgotten people from your childhood might say to you in a NyQuil-induced dream. “Jesus Christ, did you see that 17-inch waist? Lord, have mercy,” one man said to his boys. “When I met Johnny, he didn’t have a pot to piss in. I was his pot,” one woman said. Mostly I heard the boys talking about how good it is to be in the desert with the boys. “Isn’t this the damn best?” said one. “Dude, how good is this? Blunts and mud,” said another.

The torrential rains of the past two days had turned the course into a 200-acre mudslide. Dozens of men and women slid down the hills, many of them deliberately and shirtless. Some fights broke out. Not far from the 11th Rough, a young woman sat bent over in a miniskirt in the sand, crying. She was given oxygen by an EMT in a golf cart, sitting next to a cactus and a puddle of her own vomit.

It seemed like a good time to return to the belly of the beast.

Outside the stadium at number 16, the lines for general admission seating were hundreds of people deep. Few had any chance of getting in: those already inside had been drinking non-stop for six hours and wouldn’t leave unless they were dragged out. Why did so many spend their day on a mission they knew would fail? A gentleman expressed his divine wish to his friends: “There will be a special girl in there showing her tits. That’s worth the wait.”

Golf continued in our box, but when the golfers were not teeing off, no one was looking at the course. A man in his 50s approached a group of four women in their early 20s from ASU’s law school and said, “Do you girls pay attention to technology?” He spent three minutes explaining his AI startup before they walked away.

At one point, a man with a ponytail pushed his way through the crowd to my seat, facing me, and touched my glasses. “Hey, Potter,” he said like a special after-school bully, “just use your wand to get through!” I felt both humbled and anointed, a perfect experience.

A visit to the toilets meant fully realizing that no sporting event embodies its name as cosmically as the Waste Management Open. They stood in an unlit room at the end of a long, wet, musty, unlit hall. At 2pm, the plastic urinals – a green, eight-foot-tall structure where four men simultaneously urinate towards each other – overflowed, sending urine onto the mud-soaked All Birds. Nearly every Porta Potty in the area was filled with cans of hard seltzers. It was incredibly brave of Waste Management to put their logos on those toilets.

Muddy cup

For sale: muddy cup, possibly stolen.
Ben Jared/Getty

By 4 p.m., word spread that the patrons had become unruly tournament organizers closed the entrance gates and stopped serving alcohol during the course. There was a slight panic. The day before, a woman had been hospitalized after falling from a balcony at the age of 16. Players and experts argued that the infamous ‘shitshow’ had become too much of a shitshow, that the waste could no longer be managed and that everyone’s safety was at risk. . But when some people rushed to the bar, they quickly realized that only the plebes were screwed. For the elites – those lucky enough to have a box – the drinks were still bottomless. “We don’t care what happens there,” said a bartender in an après-ski outfit. (After the carnage was over, the tournament’s executive director promised “a complete operational change,” which could be the death knell for the Open’s noisiest days.)

But for the rest of the day, the tournament continued to loom over the brothers. A few minutes after 6 p.m., a tournament official blew an air horn. The mass had ended. The sunset was flawless: orange-purple halos hugging billowing violet clouds. The man in the FTX hat who wanted to see the pig missed it. He had been asleep for half an hour and it looked like he had pissed himself.

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