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LPGA Drive On Championship shows that the tour ‘belongs in Phoenix’ after four-year absence

SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN, Ariz. — The 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship – the first LPGA event in Arizona since 2019 and the first at Superstition Mountain since 2008 – is just about in the books.

Six of the top 10 ranked players in the world made the trek to compete in the first full-field event on the LPGA’s 2023 schedule and the second U.S. tournament in two months.

Temperatures gradually warmed as the week went and fans were treated to low scores, the first ace of the season and the tour’s first albatross in three years.

Scott Wood, the 2023 tournament director, sat down with Golfweek for a Sunday Q&A about week.

Golfweek: Initial thoughts on the week?

Scott Wood: It’s been a fantastic week, to be honest with you, it’s exceeded all of our expectations. Ticket sales have just been fantastic. The community involvement has been great. So, to us, this has been a plus it’s been a home run.

GW: Is there anything you’d have done differently?

SW: We tried some things. … and so I think there’s a lot for us to build upon. The only thing that I always ask for is more time to plan. I think now that we’ve got one under our belt here, and worked with everybody, to be honest with you, as long as we have time we can we can really take this to the next level.

GW: Have you gotten much feedback from players?

SW: Feedback has just been completely positive about their experience at the clubhouse. Obviously, dining is very important to our players and caddies and so that’s been that’s been well-received. The golf course has been truly phenomenal. I honestly anticipated scores probably a little bit lower, so I think it’s a really good fair test. And the players have been nothing but complimentary to the to the team here about just from tee to green.

GW: It seems like the course has been a good test.

SW: It is, you know, I was watching, like everybody else, the middle of the pack really shot up [on Saturday]. … with 30 players within four shots [after 54 holes], that’s the kind of competition that you want. So I think we got it dialed in.

Nanna Koerstz Madsen tees off from the 17th during the second round of the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club in Arizona. (Photo: Patrick Breen/The Arizona Republic)

GW: Has the tour provided any feedback?

SW: Everything’s been well received. That’s why I think when we say this just exceeded our expectations. I think that’s it’s collectively, from our staff from players, from the few sponsors that did, you know, jump in last-minute with us. Everybody is just super excited about where this could go in the future. and there’s been a lot of conversations had on-site this week of, okay, this is really great. How can we make it better?

GW: We don’t know if it’s coming back [in 2024 and beyond] for sure, but do you feel like this was a big step towards that?

SW: I do. I do. I’ll be honest with you, as I’ve been telling some others this week, for us to move Founders Cup out of Phoenix [after 2019], it was a business decision and this [Drive On] gave us this opportunity to come and bring one of our marquee events that the Tour owns and operates, for us to be able to get it back into the market. To see after four years how well it was received by the fans and by our players and by really everybody in town. That’s gonna be the catapult that just sends us into like, you know, I think having really strong conversations with a lot of good people that can really help to facilitate a long-term deal.

Danielle Kang tees off on the third hole as golf fans gather around the tee box during the first round of the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club in Arizona. (Photo: Parick Breen/The Arizona Republic)

GW: Can you share ticket sales?

SW: What I can say right now is is the way that we saw ticket sales, pre-tournament, and then ticket sales during tournament week online and then walk-up ticket sales, we’re in that 30- to 35- [thousand] range right now [for the week].

It just proves the point that the LPGA belongs in Phoenix and that it’s going to be well-supported no matter what we do here.

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