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Nick Taylor wins raucous WM Phoenix Open in playoff after crowd trouble bedevils tournament

By Jack Bantock, CNN

(CNN) — Canada’s Nick Taylor completed a dramatic late fightback to win the WM Phoenix Open in a playoff on Sunday, after crowd trouble marred the notoriously raucous PGA Tour event at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona.

Three shots back with four holes left to play, 35-year-old Taylor rattled off three birdies – including a nine-foot putt at the last – to force American Charley Hoffman into a playoff at 21-under overall.

After both players birdied the first replay of the final hole, only Taylor could repeat the feat at the subsequent try, sinking his third successive birdie on the 18th green in the space of an hour to clinch his fourth PGA Tour title and $1.58 million in prize money.

It marks the Winnipeg-born golfer’s second dramatic playoff victory in less than a year after a remarkable 72-foot eagle putt secured him a home victory at the RBC Canadian Open in June – a moment made even more memorable by a security guard tackling Adam Hadwin to the ground during the subsequent celebrations after seemingly mistaking the golfer for a fan.

“He [Hadwin] dodged security this time, so it’s good,” Taylor, who jumped 27 places to world No. 28, told reporters Sunday.

“I drew on that last putt from last year … For whatever reason it is, the later it gets, I just seem to get a little more locked in and zoned in and kind of relish those moments.

“I said at the Canadian Open I’d want to soak it up as much as I could because you never know when it’s going to happen again, and for it to happen again nine or ten months later, I’m going to celebrate this one, as well.”

Hoffman, 47, fell narrowly short of ending an eight-year wait for his fifth PGA Tour win, while defending champion and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler finished tied-third.

Scheffler had been bidding to become the first player since Steve Stricker three-peated the John Deere Classic in 2011 to make it a hat-trick of successive wins at one PGA Tour event, but finished three shots shy of making the playoff at 18-under alongside compatriot Sam Burns.


Dubbed “the people’s Open” and renowned for generating a fervent atmosphere, the tournament was a flashpoint for various crowd-related incidents across the week.

During Friday’s second round, a fan suffered non-life-threatening injuries after a fall at the 16th hole, a statement from the PGA Tour said.

“Scottsdale fire and bike team paramedics reacted quickly at the scene to give the injured fan immediate medical attention and then provided safe transport to a local medical center for further evaluation,” the statement added.

A short par-three surrounded by grandstands, the 16th hole is a hotspot for raucous behavior at the event, with fans previously showering players with drink cans in celebration of good shots.

Over a million 12-ounce beers were sold during the 2023 tournament, hole marshal Jock Holliman told the PGA Tour, though all in plastic cups after Mexican golfer Carlos Ortiz was struck by a beer can following his hole-in-one at the previous edition.

One man was arrested Saturday after hurdling the ropes and diving into a greenside bunker on the hole and performing ‘snow angels” in a greenside bunker, according to Sky Sports.

Another fan dressed as William Wallace from “Braveheart” was led away by police during Friday’s round after running onto the 11th hole.

The third round also saw alcohol sales temporarily halted and venue gates closed after the course became overcrowded. “We know that fans with Saturday tickets were turned away,” tournament organizers The Thunderbirds said in a statement.

“The Thunderbirds as an organization are gathering more details and discussing options on how to remedy their concerns.”

As crowd footage circulated on social media and broadcast – including one shirtless spectator mud-sliding down a hill – two videos emerged of clashes between players and fans during Sunday’s concluding round.

Last year’s US Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson was seen telling a group of fans that he was “sick of it” and to “shut up” in one clip, while another video showed compatriot Billy Horschel addressing a spectator for shouting while one of his playing partners was taking his shot.

“Buddy, when he’s over a shot shut the hell up man,” Horschel said. “He’s trying to hit a damn golf shot here – it’s our f****** job.”

South Korea’s An Byeong-hun, who finished tied-66th, described the final round as “totally out of control on every hole” in a post on X.

“I know what I signed up for. Played here multiple times over the years and it was fine until today. It’s just personal experience,” the 32-year-old added in another post.

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