Thunderbirds message to PGA Tour pros: "Count on us to get this right in 2025"

Boss of The Thunderbirds says the event will make number of changes in 2025 to avoid the chaos that ensued at last week's WM Phoenix Open on the PGA Tour. 

Andy Roberts's picture
Tue, 13 Feb 2024
Thunderbirds message to PGA Tour pros: "Count on us to get this right" in 2025

The executive director of The Thunderbirds, the philanthropic organization that puts on the WM Phoenix Open every year, has issued a defiant message to PGA Tour players and golf fans that they will put things right in 2025 following last week's shocking scenes. 

The 2024 WM Phoenix Open has come under heavy criticism from the media, fans and PGA Tour players as a result of the mayhem that unfolded particularly during Saturday's play at TPC Scottsdale. 

As a result of a deluge of rain at the start of the week, which is a rarity in Arizona given the state gets around six inches of rain a year, there were multiple areas at the Stadium Course that were "simply unusable".

A minority of fans on site thought better of the situation, however, as numerous videos went viral of beer-fuelled specators sliding down muddy slopes and causing general chaos while the tournament was going on. 

Opinion: Has the WM Phoenix Open lost its way in 2024?

As a result of the boggy course conditions for fans on Saturday, it led to crowding in certain parts especially down the big paving area at the right side of the par-4 18th.

The Thunderbirds, which were founded in 1937, were forced to make an operational decision and that was to remove spectators off the course for safety reasons. 

A decision was also made to halt alcohol sales during Saturday's play after it had emerged a person had fallen some 20 feet in the stands on the iconic par-3 16th.

Thankfully that person was okay. 

There was also a fight that broke out

Elsewhere, a number of fans were angering PGA Tour players out on the course. 

Zach Johnson was criticised by a group of fans about his Ryder Cup captaincy last year, while Billy Horschel was seen unloading on a fan after he shouted out while a player was over their ball. 

Johnson then gave an emotional interview with one reporter after the event, but golf social media sensation Paige Spiranac was having none of it

Ben An also took to Twitter over the weekend to explain how the WM Phoenix Open had got "out of control" on Saturday. 

Even World No.1 Scottie Scheffler admitted there was a lack of food available for the players after the third round. 

But with seemingly so much bad PR during the staging of the 2024 WM Phoenix Open, with many now believing the tournament has had its day in 2024, executive director of The Thunderbirds, Chance Cozby admits they will put everything right in 2025. 

The WM Phoenix Open is going nowhere in the eyes of Cozby, who has been involved in the staging of this tournament for the majority of his golf career, even before he worked at PING for 20 years. 

Cozby told NBC's Golf Today

"Well, we are going to make changes. I think everyone probably agrees that we have a very unique culture of our event and we've been doing this for 89 years. The Thunderbirds were founded in 1937, and this was our 89th playing and I don't think any of us dreamed it would grow to this level of attention and excitement, but the fine line was really when we felt like we were at a point on Saturday where our fans could not move around the golf course, and at that moment the right thing to do was to take the steps that we did. When you look at our course we have a really big paved road that we call our hall road that really runs to the right side of 18 and to the right side of 17 behind all of our hospitality structures, and that was the point in time that the flow of people simply could not flow and we knew that we needed to make an operational decision at that point to get people off the golf course simply for the safety of the event, the safety of the players, the safety of our fans and that was the decision that we made, and it was the right decision."

Cozby then went further on the changes that will be made ahead of 2025, including ticket sales and full security, especially for Saturday's third round which is always the highest-attended day of the WM Phoenix Open. 


Cozby continued: 

"We spent five or six hours on Saturday afternoon as the course was steadily flowing outward. We sat as a leadership team and evaluated just kind of brainstorming what our next steps are, I mean there is no time off, we have got 365 days to fix this so I will think you will see a complete operational change of how we manage our Friday and Saturday but also the entire week. We are very proud of what we have built, we have 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, and so nothing is off the table. We are going to look at our general admission ticket exposure, and how many are out there in the market place. We are going to look at our complete security plan, and just how we operate. I think Saturday at the WM Phoenix Open in 2024 is going to end up being a turning point for our tournament and our organisation to make our event better. We learned so much and we know that we have to make improvements, we owe it to our fans, we owe it to the PGA Tour players that come and support this event, and we are not going to let this happen again for all these reasons."

Cozby also had a message for the PGA Tour players who are unsure about whether or not to come back for the 2025 WM Phoenix Open.

He said: 

"I think the message to the players... I was at PING Golf for 20 years, and I've been running this tournament for five years... and I think the message to the players is you can count on the Thunderbirds to get this right. We know that you've come and supported our event and the 16th hole is really unlike anything else in golf. We acknowledge we did not have a good Saturday and we are committed to making the experience at the WM Phoenix Open better for you, your families, for our fans, for our volunteers. We have had a lot of challenges over our 89 years and we are not going to rest on our laurels, we will be humble, and we will make changes and we will make this right."

What did you make of the 2024 WM Phoenix Open? Has the event crossed the line now? Share your thoughts and comments over on the GolfMagic social media channels.

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