After spending last week covering the PGA TOURs FBR Open in Phoenix, Im convinced that the TOUR needs more unique events like this one.
The FBR Open is dubbed the greatest show on grass and what a show it is. Perhaps its most distinguishing attribute is the size of the crowds. For the week, over 500,000 people descended upon the TPC Scottsdale giving it a temporary population larger than that of the city of Portland, Ore. On Saturday alone there were more than 160,000 in attendance -- most of them seemingly surrounding the 16th hole, creating what is without a doubt the most raucous atmosphere in golf.
On Saturday at the FBR Open, the par-3 16th is transformed into a scene where the players are under intense scrutiny. Good shots are applauded but bad shots are booed. The arena is loud, very loud and there is no place to hide when you are out there, even the announcers (as Roger Maltbie and I can attest to) are not immune.
Actually, the commentary from the gallery is quite hysterical. Not only is the crowd quite vocal; for the most part, it is quite educated. I even had several yell and asked me if I knew hot to spell potato (an obvious reference to my college roommate Dan Quayle).
This is an atmosphere that not all of the players totally embrace. In fact, there are some that do not play in Phoenix because of it. However, the majority of those in the FBR Open field enjoy it, which is important, because when you are in that arena you have to acknowledge the crowd. If you dont, they will not relent. This is a different kind of pressure for the players than that of a major championship, but it is still very intense. In fact, this may be a good place for future young American Ryder Cup players to get a sense of what they will be facing in that competition.
Last year, the FBR Open raised over $6,000,000 for charity. The Thunderbirds do a phenomenally good job in selling in their market. And what they are selling is primarily the experience. Many of those in the gallery see very few golf shots in a given day, they simply want to have a few and they do.
There is only one FBR Open on the PGA TOUR and thats the way it should be. However, other PGA TOUR events should take note. Being unique is what makes the Phoenix event so successful and I believe there are several other events that could create their own brand and make it a real happening in their area. The FBR Open cant be copied but it could be analyzed and some of its strong sales points utilized in marketing plans by other PGA TOUR events. I believe this could be done, particularly in large markets such as Houston or Atlanta.
Even with the FedExCup having shortened the season, it is still a long one with more than 35 events. When Tiger plays it is always a big event. When he doesnt, traditionally, it is imperative for the host organization to create a special niche for their tournament. Variety in theme and experience from week to week is what will help the PGA TOUR continue to prosper in the future -- and the FBR Open is a great example of an event that has found its niche.
Thats MY VIEW!
Editors Note: Mark Rolfing, a Maui resident, is one of the leading forces in sports event marketing and production in Hawaii. As NBC Sports award-winning golf commentator, Rolfing continues to cover top golf events such as the prestigious Ryder Cup, The Players Championship and The U.S Open. Rolfing also hosts Golf Hawaii on The Golf Channel. Golf Hawaii, now in its twelfth season is one of the longest running sports shows in the nation.