PGA Tour players weigh in on the rowdy crowd at the WM Open, and what's next

It's no secret that the Waste Management Open (WM Open) has a reputation for being a rowdy tournament. With its stadium-like setting that surrounds many holes, and its reputation for heavy drinking, the tournament has drawn both admirers and critics. The tournament is a fundraiser for the Thunderbirds, a local civic charitable organization that has raised more than $14 million for charities in the Phoenix area.

Last week, the tournament saw an attendance record of 196,000-plus spectators, a week that began with rowdy behavior from the outset. On Thursday, fans were pelting players with beer cups, with one fan dumping a full cup of beer on the back of Brooks Koepka's head. Another fan tried to join Jordan Spieth on the 16th hole's famous "coliseum" hole, taking an air swing that barely missed Spieth's head. On Friday, fans shouted as players were hitting, with Koepka telling reporters later, "It's a joke how loud they were." To address this, Waste Management announced it was limiting the sale of alcohol on Saturday, and volunteers and staff would be increasing efforts to identify overly intoxicated fans.

Sunday proceeded without much fan disruption, but the chaos erupted that evening at the Phoenix Open's official after-party. A video showed a fan pouring beer onto Brooks Koepka's head following his victory. Koepka later issued a statement through his agent, indicating that while he understood fans were excited, his family was in attendance, and that type of behavior was unacceptable. The WM Open is a spectacle that helps grow the game of golf, but it also poses a significant risk to its reputation, with players and officials knowing that fans are not in control.

This week, the PGA Tour moves to the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, where players and officials are hopeful that the chaos of the WM Open will stay in Scottsdale. Still, players are debating what should be done, and whether the WM Open has crossed a line. While most agree that the tournament provides a great atmosphere, it has become a distraction to the players, affecting their ability to perform at their highest level.

"I thought it was great and then on Saturday it just kind of tipped over," said Sahith Theegala, who finished fifth at the WM Open. "I fully embrace the tournament, because it's so much fun. They just need to get [the unruly fans] figured out and contain the chaos."

Rory McIlroy, who famously quipped that the WM Open was "like an episode of 'Animal Kingdom,'" told the Golf Channel, "For a stand-alone event, I think it's pretty cool ... everybody knows what they're going to get going into that event."

McIlroy continued, "as long as it doesn't get to the point where it's affecting the play on the course."

The problem is, that's exactly what's been happening. The WM Open has become so rowdy that players have complained about the crowd affecting their ability to play. In response to scenes like a fan pouring beer on Brooks Koepka's head after his win, Koepka stated that his family was there and that such behavior is unacceptable.

While some applaud the WM Open for attracting a new, younger crowd to the game, others wonder if it's coming at the expense of decorum and respect. The question is, has the WM Open become so rowdy that it's hurting the game? And if so, what can be done to reel in the chaos?

"Everybody's got to deal with it," Matt Kuchar said, "and if you don't want to deal with it, we have the choice to play or not."

The WM Open is a fundraiser for the Thunderbirds, and it's clear that the tournament brings in much-needed revenue for charities in the Phoenix area. But with the WM Open posing a risk to its reputation, it's clear that officials will need to find a way to maintain order without losing what makes the tournament unique. The question remains whether the WM Open has crossed a line and if so, how it can be steered back on course.

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