Fewer people are coming to the party but Jason Day is a welcome addition for Aussie golf fans as the PGA Tour returns to TPC Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
A tournament that will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Australian golf fans due to the ace made by the late Jarrod Lyle at the famed par-3 16th in 2011, tournament officials erecting a temporary memorial on that tee during the 2019 event as tribute after Lyle’s passing.
It’s also an event with its share of Australian success stories dating back to Bruce Crampton in 1973 and most recently Aaron Baddeley (2007) but it’s a stopover that has rarely featured on Day’s schedule.
In just the third start of his rookie season in 2008 Day fired a final round of 67 to climb into a tie for 20th but has been back only twice since. He missed the cut in 2010 and then again shot four-under 67 on the Sunday as he finished tied for 57th in 2013.
The 33-year-old made his first start of the year at the Farmers Insurance Open last week but a back nine of four-over 40 in the opening round left too much ground to make up at the demanding Torrey Pines layout as he missed the weekend action.
The atmosphere at TPC Scottsdale will be very different from what Day remembers from almost a decade ago with fan numbers to restricted to some 5,000 per day, a far cry from the pre-COVID 19 days that would see 200,000 fans flood into the golf course on the Saturday alone.
Currently the sixth-highest ranked Australian in the Official World Golf Rankings, two-time Australian Open champion Matt Jones is an Arizona local but is yet to use the home ground advantage to full effect, recording a best finish of tied for 12th in 2014 where he was tied for the lead through 36 holes.
Kiwi Danny Lee is the only other Australasian in the field and has a best result of fourth in 2016.
There is a stronger Aussie influence at the European Tour’s Saudi International where many of the game’s biggest names will take part.
Headed by world No.1 and 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson, the Saudi International boasts 13 Major winners with 22 championships between them, 29 Ryder Cup stars and more than 900 international titles.
Runner-up at the Abu Dhabi Championship, West Australian Jason Scrivener is still seeking his first European Tour win and has been paired with 2020 Omega Dubai Desert Classic victor and fellow Aussie Lucas Herbert for the opening two rounds.
Round 1 tee-times (AEDT)
Royal Greens G&CC, King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
3.10pm Wade Ormsby, Masahiro Kawamura, Paul Waring
3.20pm Ryan Fox, Mike Lorenzo-Vera, Richard McEvoy
4pm Min Woo Lee, Kristoffer Broberg, Benjamin Hebert
8.50pm Scott Hend, David Lipsky, Alexander Levy
9pm Jason Scrivener, Lucas Herbert, Guido Migliozzi
Defending champion: Graeme McDowell
Past Aussie winners: Nil
Top Aussie prediction: Jason Scrivener
TV schedule: Live 7pm-9pm, 10.30pm-1.30am Thursday, Friday; Live 8.30pm-1am Saturday; 7.30pm-12am Sunday on Fox Sports 503.
Waste Management Phoenix Open
TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona
1.30am* Matt Jones, Luke List, Jamie Lovemark
2.10am* Jason Day, Cameron Champ, Bubba Watson
6am* Danny Lee, Patrick Rodgers, Beau Hossler
Defending champion: Webb Simpson
Past Aussie winners: Bruce Crampton (1973), David Graham (1981), Aaron Baddeley (2007)
Top Aussie prediction: Matt Jones
TV schedule: Live 7am-11am Friday, Saturday; Live 5am-10am Sunday; Live 5am-10.30am Monday on Fox Sports 503.