Mickelson just one of many Sun Devils competing in Phoenix Open this week

Phil Mickelson walks from the fifth green to the sixth tee at the 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open Annexus Pro-Am Wednesday. Mickelson is one of six ASU golfers in the field. (Photo by Nick Krueger/Cronkite News)

Phil Mickelson walks from the fifth green to the sixth tee at the 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open Annexus Pro-Am Wednesday. Mickelson is one of six ASU golfers in the field. (Photo by Nick Krueger/Cronkite News)

There was no shortage of love for PGA Tour star Phil Mickelson at TPC Scottsdale during his round Wednesday, Feb. 3 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open Annexus Pro-Am.

And the cheers will only get louder this week as Mickelson and five other Sun Devils tee it up less than 10 miles, as the Titleist flies, from where they played college golf at Arizona State University.

Mickelson has ridden the local support to three Phoenix Open titles, most recently in 2013.

“Coming back for me 25 years now to this event, it means a lot,” Mickelson said. “It’s a special place and I love the way people have treated me. I’m so appreciative of it.”

While Mickelson is one of the most liked players on the PGA Tour and certainly the most prominent of the former Sun Devils, he’s not the only Tour player who had success in maroon and gold.

Among them is Jeff Quinney, who turned pro in 2001 after he was named a second team All-American and won the U.S. Amateur Championship in 2000. He overlapped with 2001 first team All-American Matt Jones at ASU, who is also in the Phoenix Open field.

This week, Quinney plans on carrying his original college golf bag from his days in Tempe during the tournament.

“It’s special,” Quinney said of hearing the ASU cheers in the crowd. “Especially on 16, you get that adrenaline rush and they’re there to support you. You know that everyone is cheering for you and wants you to succeed.”

The ASU golf program is one of the most successful in NCAA history. Since joining the Pac-12 in 1978, no school has won more conference titles than the Sun Devils with 12. ASU also has six regional titles, tied for third most in NCAA history.

The Sun Devils have won two NCAA team titles, finished second twice and have crowned six individual champions. Mickelson accounts for three of the individual titles and led the Sun Devils to the 1990 team championship.

Phil Mickelson walks from the second green to the third tee at the 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open Annexus Pro-Am Wednesday. Mickelson is one of six ASU golfers in the field. (Photo by Nick Krueger/Cronkite News)

Phil Mickelson walks from the second green to the third tee at the 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open Annexus Pro-Am Wednesday. Mickelson is one of six ASU golfers in the field. (Photo by Nick Krueger/Cronkite News)

Scott Pinckney, who won All-Pac-10 honors in 2011, is making his first appearance in the Phoenix Open after lobbying to get into the event.

“I’ve been trying to get an invite for the past couple of years,” he said. “I’m going to have a ton of friends and family out here, so that’s going to be real special to have people out here following me. I’ve been wanting to play since I was a junior, so I can’t wait to tee off.”

Chez Reavie, who the 2001 U.S. Public Links Championship and played in the Masters while at ASU in 2002, grew up in Mesa and served as a standard bearer in the Phoenix Open while dreaming of one day playing in the event.

“It’s home,” Reavie said. “I grew up a Sun Devil fan and was able to go there. I’m a lifer so it’s fun.”

The question now is who will be the next standard bearer for the ASU golf program on the PGA Tour?

The answer appears to be senior Jon Rahm, who finished in a tie for fifth at last year’s Phoenix Open as an ASU junior. Rahm is not in the field this year, competing instead with his Sun Devil teammates in Hawaii this week.

He won the Ben Hogan Award in 2015, college golf’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy after finishing as the No. 1 amateur player in the world last year. He is a two-time member of the All-Pac-12 team and it’s clear he’s well on his way to a PGA Tour card.

Rahm is second only to Mickelson at ASU in tournament victories and holds the school record for a 54-hole score of 21-under-par, 192.

“He’s an extremely talented player,” Mickelson said. “He hits the ball hard, he’s got a great short game and he’s a wonderful putter. I believe when he comes out on tour after he graduates he’s going to be a real force to be reckoned with. He’s already got a game that’s going to be top-30 in the world.”

Rahm will find a network of former ASU golfers waiting for him. They remain in touch as they play golf professionally, and often practice together

Sun Devils Pat Perez and Quinney practiced next to each other Monday and exchanged stories on the driving range. Many, including Mickelson, have already played rounds with Rahm.

“We all have a special relationship and we all kind of hang out with each other,” Pinckney said. “We’re all proud to be Sun Devils and it’s pretty cool being a Sun Devil this week.”

Editor's Note: Mr. Krueger is a student reporter at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

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