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Scottie Scheffler eyeing third straight win at rowdy Phoenix Open

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The PGA Tour shifts this week from the soggy-but-picturesque coast of Northern California to a party in the desert.

The Phoenix Open, dubbed “Greatest Show on Grass,” is unlike anything in golf. Masses of up to 200,000 fans pack TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course with cheers, boos and the occasional beer shower.

The eye of the rowdy hurricane is the stadium 16th hole, a multi-tiered frat party of a par-3 where “Quiet please” signs are met with oh, please disdain.

Scottie Scheffler feels right at home amid the chaos.

The world's No. 1 ranked golfer has won the Phoenix Open the past two years and has a chance to accomplish something that hasn't happened on the PGA Tour in 13 years at the tournament that starts on Thursday.

“It’s a little bit different than a lot of the tournaments that we play,” Scheffler said Wednesday. “That provides some fun stuff but some challenges, as well, with the noise and all that. It’s definitely, definitely a lot of fun playing in this event.”

A year ago, the Phoenix Open had elevated status and a $20 million purse — $3.6 million to the winner. A reshuffling of what are now called signature events bumped the Phoenix Open out of the top tier in favor of AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and dropped the purse to $8.8 million.

The Phoenix Open was a signature event long before the designation was put in place.

Since Tiger Woods' roar-inducing, fist-pumping hole-in-one on No. 16 in 1997, the Phoenix Open has grown into a must-stop for players who can handle the heat (from the fans, not the desert).

The tournament draws record crowds — more than 700,000 in a week — and the din from the booze-infused 16th hole is more like an NBA playoff game, more than 20,000 people wildly cheering good shots, booing even mediocre ones.

“It’s great here and they’ve done a great job of trying to control the chaos as much as they can,” said Justin Thomas, who had four top-10 finishes in Phoenix the past five years.

This year's tournament has another strong field, even after Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele withdrew on Monday. Fan favorites Max Homa, Matt Fitzpatrick, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler will tee it up in Scottsdale this week, as will Wyndham Clark, the winner last week at Pebble Beach.

Clark soared up the leaderboard with a course-record 60 in Saturday's third round and was declared the 54-hole winner when hurricane-force winds and pelting rain washed out Sunday's final round.

“To break a course record at a place that is one of the most historic golf courses in the world and then ultimately to win I think was just the icing on the cake,” said Clark, the reigning U.S. Open champion.

Scheffler beat Patrick Cantlay in a playoff in 2022 for his first career PGA Tour win after several close calls the year before. He went on to win three more times in 2022, including The Masters for his first major championship, and repeated at Phoenix Open last season with a final-round 65 to beat Nick Taylor by two strokes.

Should he pull off a three-peat at TPC Scottsdale, Scheffler will become the first player to win the same tournament three straight years since Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic from 2009-2011.

“I think this is one of the tournaments you always paid attention to, just because of the way No. 16 is — that’s really kind of what everybody thinks about when it comes to this tournament,” Scheffler said. “But the golf course is actually really good, as well.”

And Scheffler is pretty good on it, too.

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf