Rory McIlroy backs the PGA Tour's raucous Phoenix Open atmosphere

Rory McIlroy backs the PGA Tour’s raucous Phoenix Open, calling it a ‘wonderful spectacle’ and says it’ll help ‘grow the game’ – but admits he’s glad it’s not a weekly experience amid traditional circuit’s battle with LIV

  • Rory McIlroy will face the full weight of the Phoenix Open’s legendary crowd 
  • McIlroy says its better to have distance between the party atmosphere events and higher stakes tournaments – unlike the current setup on the LIV calendar 
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For Rory McIlroy, PGA Tour events with greater stakes, bigger purses, and rowdier fans are best to be spread out across the calendar.

McIlroy spoke ahead of this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, ready for the party atmosphere and rowdy crowds that awaited him at places like the famed par-3 16th hole known as ‘The Coliseum’.

‘I’m looking forward to it this week in some ways, but it’s going to be an experience,’ he acknowledged Wednesday.

‘I think this tournament is a wonderful spectacle for the game of golf. I think to have hundreds of thousands of fans at this event, I mean, I think it was obvious that this was one that needed to have that status.

That status McIlroy is referring to is the PGA Tour’s classification of the Phoenix Open as a ‘designated event’ – one which has a purse increase to $20million in total and a winners check of $3.6m.

Rory McIlroy seems glad that there’s more space between the more intense PGA events 

McIlroy said it was ‘sort of obvious’ for the Phoenix Open to get this designation. 

‘Just because it’s such a fan favorite, and players like it, players love the atmosphere. I think a lot of players like the golf course, as well,’ he said.

It’s going to be the first time McIlroy faces the full brunt of the Phoenix Open’s reputation. He first played the event in 2021 – when COVID restrictions limited the crowds down to a few thousand per day. 

This will also be the first time McIlroy competes at the PGA Tour’s most highly attended event with the specter of LIV Golf hanging over the players’ shoulders.  

Party atmospheres and massive purses are common on the breakaway LIV circuit.

‘I think if we were to have an event like this every single week or even five or 10 events like this on the schedule, I think it might be a little bit too much,’ he said. 

‘But I think to have a golf tournament where most of the fans here aren’t here to watch the golf, right; it’s a different environment, and that’s totally fine. If we’re talking about growing the game, that’s a way to do it.’

McIlroy said that the raucous atmosphere, like at the Phoenix Open, can help grow the game

Growing the game has been a hot-button topic for McIlroy in his stance against the LIV Golf Series, which has lured several marquee players away from the PGA Tour with massive guaranteed contracts. 

With 54-hole, no-cut events and no established feeder tours, McIlroy has been outspoken in his view that the upstart rival is doing nothing to grow the game of golf.

He has been doing just as much talking with his play over the past six months.

After winning the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup title for the second time in August, McIlroy played just one fall event. 

He won the CJ Cup before finishing solo fourth at the DP World Championship and beginning 2023 with a win at the Dubai Desert Classic.

McIlroy more or less needed to play the Phoenix Open after opting to skip the year-opening Tournament of Champions on Maui — the first designated event on the calendar. 

This week, McIlroy will attempt to become the first player to win three consecutive starts on the PGA Tour since Dustin Johnson in 2016-17.

He arrived in Phoenix ranked No. 1 ahead of defending champion Scottie Scheffler and red-hot Jon Rahm.

McIlroy provided a one-word answer when asked if he feels like the best player in the world: ‘Yes.’

McIlroy plays at the Phoenix Open for only the second time, and the first as the world No. 1

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