Waste Management Phoenix Open 2012 Preview: The PGA's Party In The Desert

SCOTTSDALE AZ - FEBRUARY 04: Aaron Baddeley putts on the 16th hole green during the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on February 4 2011 in Scottsdale Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It's time for beer bongs and birdies at the 2012 WM Phoenix Open. Mark Wilson hopes to defend his title and win his second tournament of the year.

The PGA Tour may sometimes seem stodgy and uptight to casual fans, but the Waste Management Phoenix Open is the exception to the rule. It's perennially the best attended tournament of the year, with hundreds of thousands of fans, including a lot of Arizona State college students, turning Scottsdale's Tournament Players Club into one giant party.

The scene at the 16th hole, a short par-3 that's fully enclosed by stadium seating, is something you'd expect to see at the infield of the Kentucky Derby, not a golf course. Fans who show up early enough to get a seat usually stay all day with a beverage in hand, cheering the good shots and booing the bad, all the while wagering on which caddie will touch the green first. (No, really, it's a thing. And it's become so popular that the tournament's official iPhone app let's you make virtual wagers on the caddies.)

Jarrod Lyle rewarded the fans with a hole-in-one at least year's event, but the most memorable ace belongs to Tiger Woods in 1997 when the event was still called the FBR Open. Watch the first 30 seconds of this video:

Yes, Tiger Woods made it rain beer. But a word to the wise for those who imbibe: don't pass out drunk by a lake, or this may happen to you ...

Despite the debauchery in the gallery, there is actual golf being played. Mark Wilson won last year's event after two playoff holes with Jason Dufner. Wilson, who's already won the Humana Challenge earlier this month, is back to defend his title, and he'll be joined by eight other former winners -- including Phil Mickelson (1996, 2005), Kenny Perry (2009) and Vijah Singh (1995, 2003) -- who have taken home a combined 13 Phoenix Open titles.

Other notable names in the field of 132 include Johnson Wagner, who won the Sony Open, and Brandt Snedeker, fresh off winning last week's Farmers Insurance Open. The world's sixth-ranked Webb Simpson and ninth-ranked Dustin Johnson will be competing, as will Rickie Fowler, Bill Haas, Martin Laird and Kyle Stanley, who's hoping the erase the memory of last week's choke job.

A $6.1 million purse is at stake, with $1,098,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points going to the winner. Play starts on Thursday, and the Golf Channel will broadcast coverage from 4 p.m. (ET) to 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, with CBS picking up coverage on Saturday and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

For more golf news, check out Waggle Room.

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