SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Hello friends, and happy Thursday from the WM Phoenix Open! I write to you all from cloud nine, where I’ll be residing for the foreseeable future thanks to Rory McIlroy.
(And, I guess, also the fact that I am seeing two of my siblings tomorrow! My sister Ellen — who has been known to cry at the site of a golf course — is willingly coming to TPC Scottsdale tomorrow with our little brother, Brendan. If there’s any tournament Ellen is going to enjoy, I’m betting it’s this one. I’ll let you all know how it goes.)
The WM Phoenix Open is golf’s version of a high school reunion. Every golf media person you’ve ever crossed paths with, seen on Twitter, or read a story from is here this week — it’s just the best. With the golf during the day and golf events at night, there is a LOT going on. I’m happy to report that I’ve been pacing myself so far, and I’m even happier to report that a handful of my loyal readers sent me Phoenix/Scottsdale ice cream recommendations. (If you’re reading this from Los Angeles, I’d love some ice cream recs before I head there for the Genesis Invitational next week.)
But outside of the ice cream and intrigue, here’s what’s happening in Scottsdale.
The media center
To know me is to know that I love the media center at PGA Tour events. This is an unpopular opinion, but just hear me out. You’re surrounded by your golf pals, there’s ample food and beverages, players come in and out for pressers and there’s always sunblock within reach. Sounds pretty good to me!
Every media center is a little different. At the Genesis Invitational, we work from the clubhouse. At smaller events, we work from a tent. Here at TPC Scottsdale, we’re in the cart barn, and I absolutely love it. Players keep their bags here overnight, so I’ve taken a close look at bags and headcovers. Walk up a nearby ramp and you’re right by the scoring tent, where players, caddies and families meet up before and after the rounds. In other words, we are right by the off-course action, which is all I could ever want.
Also, I’ve got a pretty great seat in the media center this week, which is a huge plus.
16th hole vibes
Besides the media center, my favorite spot on the course is the 16th hole. I know, I know — that’s about as original as saying I like wearing Air Force 1s and a jean jacket to the bar. But some basic opinions are also good opinions, and that’s the case here.
I first arrived to the course on Wednesday and hustled out to No. 16. Not only was the stadium packed, but so was the inside the ropes area. And for good reason. The place was absolutely bumping. The playlist was great. It took me right back to 7th grade, where I’d attend a bar or bat mitzvah every month and every song the DJ played was better than the last.
I talked to the DJ, Tyler, who said he got the gig because he’s pals with a Thunderbird. I’ve come to learn that “knowing a Thunderbird” is tantamount to a golden ticket out here. Tyler’s had this gig for a handful of years but assured me it never gets old. I believe him, of course.
Sometimes I feel a little lame for how excited I get at golf tournaments. I want to play it cool and act like I’ve been there before, and I’m usually okay at it. What I like about No. 16 at TPC Scottsdale is it’s acceptable to gawk at how cool it is. JR Smith and Pacman Jones were there taking videos of the scene. Shane Lowry’s caddie recorded his boss’ tee shot and the ensuing chaos. Charley Hoffman took a selfie with Larry Fitzgerald before recording his tee shot. And this was only in the hour or two that I was there!
Then came Thursday, when the stadium on 16 turned into a complete wind tunnel. Players were taking as much as 6-iron off the tee! Also, I know that the “quiet!” signs are necessary at most Tour events, but I got a kick out of this scene on No. 16 today.
Okay, folks. Now on to the really, really good stuff.
I met Rory McIlroy
Yes, the rumors are true. Settle in folks, because I will now take you through an obnoxiously detailed recounting of my first interaction with the World No. 1.
I was standing on the right side of the tee box on No. 16 when Rory arrived to hit his tee shot. I turned to my co-worker, Sean Zak, to say something, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw Rory looking at me. And friends, he was walking toward me. My Catholic guilt immediately set in. Had I done something wrong? Was I about to get in trouble? Maybe he was looking at someone behind me.
A moment later, he reached out to shake my hand.
“Hi!” I said.
“I like your work. It’s very funny,” he said.
I’ve gotten to know a handful of pros over the last few years, but this was my first interaction with McIlroy. I wasn’t expecting that at all, so I just smiled and said, “Thank you! I like your golf!” and looked at my co-worker with the world’s biggest smile on my face. McIlroy then chatted with us while the rest of his group hit, and then he was on his way.
Afterward, I couldn’t help but overthink the interaction. What “work” were we talking about? Is McIlroy reading the Rogers Report? Was he talking about my Twitter? Luckily, I won’t have to lose sleep over this because he later asked me about one of my tweets. I got my answer.
All in all, today was a 10 out of 10 at TPC Scottsdale. And the best part? I’m going to In-N-Out for dinner.