WM Phoenix Open golf tournament begins: Scheffler to defend title

The American, along with McIlroy and Rahm, are the favorites. The tournament generated more than $450 million in revenue last year.

From Thursday, Feb. 9 through Sunday, Feb. 12, the best golf players in the world will compete in one of the most prestigious tournaments on the professional circuit. The PGA Tour's WM Phoenix Open will be held at the TPC Scottsdale course in Arizona. Frost and low temperatures caused the PGA to postpone tee times on the first day for one hour.

The first two rounds will take place on Thursday and Friday, the third on Saturday and the fourth and final round on Sunday. Over 150 professionals will compete for the tournament's prize purse of $20 million dollars.

More than $450 million in revenue

Beyond important tournaments as the Ryder Cup, the Masters or the U.S. Open, the WM Phoenix Open is considered one of the biggest golfing events of the season. The tournament generated more than $450 million last year. For comparison, the Ryder Cup, which pits the best players from Europe against those from the United States, earned just $130 million in revenue.

In 2022, the WM Phoenix Open offered a prize purse of $8.5 million. In total, 700,000 spectators (126,000 non-Arizona residents) attended the tournament, and 4,000 jobs were created for the four-day event.

McIlroy, Scheffler and Rahm: a battle of the world's best

Scottie Scheffler, number two in the world ranking and reigning champion of the tournament, has the difficult task of defending his title against Rory McIlroy, the world number one, and Spain's Jon Rahm, number three. Before the start of the WM Phoenix Open, Scheffler praised his rivals and clarified his aspirations:

It's just kind of one of those funny things. Right now I'm ranked No.2, but I would say I'm not playing the second-best golf in the world; I think Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are pretty much neck-and-neck for playing the best golf in the world right now, so the rankings are funny. It's just an algorithm.

World number one Rory McIlroy assured that he considers himself the best player in the field based on his level of play in recent months:

I'm playing well. I feel like consistency-wise, I've been as good as I have been ever in my career. I said at the end of last year, I feel like as complete of a player as I ever have. I've worked really hard on that, to try to become a more well-rounded player. I think the results speak for themselves, as well, over not just the past six months but really the past 18 months post-Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, I feel like I've been on a really good run of form since then.

For Jon Rahm, this tournament is special. Having trained as a professional on Arizona golf courses, the world's third-ranked golfer considers the WM Phoenix Open one of his favorites:

I think this was an 'elevated tournament' before we knew it was going to be. No matter what the purse is, this tournament is going to be what it is. That said, I don't think he's everyone's favorite. I think you either love it or hate it. There is no middle ground. In my case, I love it. I want to come every year. It ranks high on my list, but I know some people who put it at the bottom of their list.

This year's edition will have two notable absentees: current number four Cameron Smith and number eight Will Zalatoris.