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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Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 10:55 pm

While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):

7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.

8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.

8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.

12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.

12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.

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Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?

By Randall MellAugust 20, 2018, 10:00 pm

We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.

Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.

I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.

That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.

In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.

My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.

Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.

It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.

So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?

We hope it isn’t his back.

Or his neck.

Or his knees.

Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.

Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.

Competitively, it’s all that matters.

Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.

We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?

The game soars to yet another level with that.

A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.

So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.

The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.

They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.

They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.

Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.

And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.

The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.

Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.

For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.

There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.

Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.

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Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work

By Grill Room TeamAugust 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.

"Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.

Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.

Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.

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Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 5:41 pm

Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.

Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.

A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.

The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.

"It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."

The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.

Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.

Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.