The Phoenix Open is a "Golf Tournament" unique in all the world.  It's hard to imagine Scottsdale without thinking of 'The Greatest Show on Grass', as the tournament organizers put it.

 First, about the name....the "Phoenix Open" was first played in Phoenix; after many years, it moved to a permanent home in Scottsdale when the TPC Stadium Course was built.  The first element of name confusion is that the "Phoenix Open' is actually played in Scottsdale.  Over the years, this same tournament has had  several different names due to different naming sponsors (much like many arenas and stadiums in Arizona and elesewhere).  As of this writing (in 2012), the tournament is called the "Waste Management Phoenix Open".

What makes this golf tournament different?  First and last - it's the crowds!  There are thousands and thousands of people - typically over 100,000 each day on the weekend.  And the people in the crowds are also very different.  While many visitors wear athletic shoes and shorts or slacks, it's not at all unusual to see stilettto heeled/short-skirted young women on the 18th hole (too hard to walk farther in those stilettos!).  Or shirtless, face-painted/inebriated young men on the 16th hole (too hard to walk at all after they've been there all day!).   There are many corporate tents scattered over the course, with lots of catered food and drink; the parties there are intermittently interrupted when someone notices a favorite golfer's group approaching.  And on the grass around holes 2 though 15 are many people who are actually there to watch the golf.

In reality, the primary sport at the Phoenix Open is people watching (or being watched); golf is the excuse for all those people to attend!  If you've never seen or played golf, go anyway - much like the Super Bowl (which currently takes place on the same day as the last day of the Phoenix Open) knowledge of the game isn't needed to enjoy the party.  And unlike other great golf tournaments, admission is very affordable and tickets are unlimited.

A few tips:

If you're under 30 and going for the party, the 16th hole is the place to be.  College students in Arizona already know this and stake out their seats early (at least early for college students...)  Number 16 is a Par-3 hole (for non-golfers, this means real short) almost totally surrounded by grandstands, corporate tents, and refreshment stands.  Beer is the refreshment of choice here.  And by the time the favoirte golfers come through (here, favorite golfers are mostly those who attended Arizona State) it's LOUD.  REALLY LOUD.   Not what you think of for golf.  When a popular group enters, there's applause, cheers, boos and name-calling for various golfers.  Then a very brief moment of almost-silence when a player hits his tee shot...followed rapidly by VERY VERY LOUD cheers or boos (depending on whether it's a good or bad shot). 

If you're over 30 and going for the party, you've already secured your passes to some corporate tent and made plans to meet your friends later at the Bird's Nest (an even bigger party/rock concert which follows the tournament every day... tickets are sold separately).

 If you're there for the golf, there are two basic ways to watch.  Choose your favorite group and follow them around the course from the first hole to the last (wear comfortable shoes - you'll be walking about 5 miles!).  Or try to find a seat in a grandstand around the 1st or 18th hole (very little walking required, but the crowds are usually huge).  Another choice is to walk out a few holes and find a good place to sit on the grass and watch - it's usually less crowded on the farther-out holes (3-7 and 11-15); choose a nice hillside with a good view and enjoy the Arizona sunshine!