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Players introduced to 'very different' Phoenix Open amid pandemic

Posted at 1:58 PM, Feb 03, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Tuesday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open was all about a majority of the players getting their first look at a very different TPC Scottsdale without the grandstands and the build-up.

"A few of the holes are extremely different. I thought they did a great job with 16, and still keeping that stadium feel with a slightly smaller build, but it's still pretty big," said Chris Kirk. "Seventeen and 18 were really the ones, but especially 17, that was wildly different. We're used to 17 having those huge grandstands on both sides, and it just looks so weird without anything out there."

For a tournament known for the fans, the lack of them on the ground Tuesday also required a little getting used to.

"It's obviously going to be very, very different this year," said Justin Thomas. "Even for a Tuesday... you didn't hear that constant buzz that you always hear just with the fans."

"It's fun to feel that kind of nervous energy walking through the tunnel on 15 and knowing you're about to enter into an environment that we'll never have again for the rest of the year," said 2020 winner Webb Simpson. "It will definitely be missed, but maybe a little stress-free this year compared to every other year."

Simpson thrived on it last year, making birdie on the final two holes to force a playoff, eventually beating Tony Finau.

"The environment Tony and I played in last year on Sunday, the playoff, even the final round with Hudson, it's so fun to be in that energy and to hear the noises, and all day you're hearing roaring on 16, or boos. So that will definitely be missed this year, maybe more than any other golf course we play."

On Wednesday, fewer than 5,000 fans are permitted to attend the Annexus Pro-Am, which will include Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Archie Bradley, Dan Majerle, and Rob Riggle.

This story was first published by Collin Harmon at KNXV in Phoenix, Arizona.