Wide Open: Limitless golf options around Scottsdale during Waste Management Phoenix Open week

By Brandon Tucker, Travel ArticlesFebruary 3, 2012, 9:35 pm

Pictures From left: An old saguaro cactus on SunRidge Canyon's back nine, a golfer takes aim on Troon North's Monument Course, and sunset on Boulders South. 

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Of all the host cities I've visited during the week of their PGA Tour event, none are ever as galvanized as the Phoenix-Scottsdale area during the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

It doesn't matter who you speak with during your trip: someone at the bell desk, security personnel in the airport, or staff at a golf course, they're excitedly telling you about their open plans. At SunRidge Canyon in Fountain Hills, one gal I met serving burgers told me she bought her boyfriend matching outfits for Christmas just to compliment their tickets to the TPC.

Having attended the event last year, complete with 16th hole passes and an evening at the Bird's Nest, I spent my time visiting area golf courses, most of which enjoy a nice stimulus of rounds during their peak season. 

I stayed at Talking Stick Resort, an ideal base for golfers during tournament week or baseball spring training (the Salt River Fields are just across Highway 101). Located on Salt River Pima Maricopa Native American land, it's a new property and the rooms are spacious and slick. Multiple restaurants, from cafes and buffets to chic fine dining mean you can try somewhere new every meal. They're large pool area even attracted some pool-goers despite weather that didn't peak past the mid 70s (surely plenty warm for those visiting from the north). The casino, which has plenty of 24-hour tables and slots, also includes a large poker room. Every I walked by, whether it was 7 a.m. on my way out the door to a tee time or midnight coming back from a night out, it was packed to the gills. The great juxtaposition of Talking Stick is that the hotel and casino is stylish and modern, while the two Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-designed golf courses onsite are minimalist and subtle. While lots of fun with wide playing corridors and no real estate onsite, they're certainly not of the spectacular nature like Boulders or Troon North but consistently pleasant. 

Talking Stick is flat, but more mountainous golf is nearby. A big reason why I came out to Scottsdale was to visit SunRidge Canyon, a course that's flown under the radar in recent years but has received new local ownership. The club also just announced that instructor Jim McLean will debut a new golf school here. Located in Fountain Hills, SunRidge rolls spectacularly down and back up rugged canyon terrain. The front nine plays mostly downhill, while the back nine trudges back up. The 18th hole, a dogleg left over bunkers that heads uphill to an elevated green is as tough as a closer as I've played in the valley. Thankfully, the course also has some of the prettiest views in the valley on both nines. 

Speaking of picturesque, I also had the chance to head north and play both Boulders South (where I used my camera more than my golf clubs) and Troon North's Monument Course for the first time. Joining me for the round at Troon North were three Norwegians in town to get a winter golf fix in the mornings and head to the tournament in the afternoons. If you think Troon North's sticker price at over $200 is pricy, my cart partner Oliver confessed to me that amount of cash converted to Norwegian Kroners gets you on a pretty ordinary course back home. In Scottsdale, it gets you a peak season 9 a.m. tee time on arguably the top golf course in the country's most visited winter golf destination. 

Shortly after, I zipped down Highway 101 to Phoenix for a twilight round at Arizona Grand Golf Resort, a resort course minutes from downtown Phoenix and Sky Harbor International Airport. While narrow in spots, the course really gets going on the final six holes with a natural stretch along the South Mountain Park nature preserve that has trails filled with mountain bikers and dog walkers. While the Phoenician sits on camelback Mountain's slopes, from Arizona Grand's elevated 18th tee, you get an entirely different perspective of the valley with views of the Phoenix Skyline and Camelback that's worth the green fee. 

Lastly, after three multi-round days and multi-beer evenings, I had an 8 a.m. tee time at the 27-hole Phoenician Resort, which sits at the base of Camelback Mountain about a mile from downtown Scottsdale. 

With little sleep and sore muscles from 36 holes the day before, two notable events occurred within the first four holes on the Canyon nine: the first time I can recall skipping my ball off the water (unintentionally of course, I wasn't summoning my inner Vijay) yet still saved par; then on the fourth hole I skulled a drive off a rock and watched it sail straight over my head over a fence and out of bounds. 

I hardly ever drink Bloody Marys on the golf course. But when the cart gal showed up soon after my follies, suddenly I was in the mood. 

Spot-on conditions at this posh, AAA Five Diamond Resort has been commonplace for years. But one of the new developments at the Phoenician compared to when I was last here two years ago is the new Relish Burger Bistro, located right above the pro shop. Relish serves a variety of kobe beef burgers or alternatives like salmon and tuna patties. I opted for a Cowboy Burger: which came with onion rings, bacon, jalapenos, onions, cheddar cheese and steak sauce. I even had them throw on a fried egg for a little extra protein - plus a side of fried pickles. 

It was an odd order for me, but nothing stranger than I'd already seen on the course that morning anyways. I'd officially seen and eaten it all in the desert, and it was time to head home. 

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 17, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods teed off at 12:15PM ET alongside Justin Rose for Round 3 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.