15,000 loud, energetic, cheering fans - some bordering on the obnoxiously intoxicated that express their disapproval through taunting and oppressive booing. Where was this occurring? Why, a golf tournament of course. This was not just any PGA Tour event; this is stadium golf of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. These fans were at one location, with the rest of the course packed with the remaining record setting crowd of 121,000.
A tradition unlike any other – and no, it is not the Masters – it is the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. Entirely enclosed by grandstands the crowd towers above the players on the tee box, and spectators are not shy in expressing their joy or displeasure with each shot. Some players, such as Bubba Watson, entice the crowds to ignore the ‘Quiet on the tee’ announcements and a scene from Happy Gilmore comes to life – professional golfers teeing off in the midst of loud cheers. Many echoes of “Get in the hole!” roar after tee shots. If a player fails to hit the green, they better have a goodie bag full of souvenirs to dispense to the crowd in order to win back their favor.
That’s not all that unfolds on the 16th hole. Occasionally the caddies will have a little footrace from tee to green, with all sorts of hijinks occurring along the way: picks, blocks, and tackles, caddies abandoning their player’s bag, somersaults, and a few caddies dove to the green in an attempt to be the first to reach the putting surface. This year a few players even joined in on the races, as well as a couple of the standard bearers.
This atmosphere of ‘Stadium Golf’ is memorable, entertaining, and will make spectators grin and laugh. If you think golf is boring, check out this tournament. You will not forget it.
TPC Scottsdale was Phil Mickelson’s stage this week – with a dramatic lip-out on the final hole Thursday for a 60, and delving deep into the red with follow-up rounds of 65, 64, and 67, Lefty had firm control. Brandt Snedeker was nipping at his heels, following closely and trying to put pressure on the leader. Both players putted phenomenally this week, with a moment on the seventh green that epitomizes the sportsmanship of the game that all players should strive to embody. After Mickelson drained a lengthy birdie putt through the fringe and over a mound, Snedeker sank his birdie putt and the two exchanged congratulatory fist-bumps and laughed over their battle to the finish.
Local Las Vegas residents Scott Piercy and Ryan Moore finished strong in the third and fourth positions at 23 and 22-under-par, respectively. Piercy shot a 10-under, 61 on Sunday to not only claim third, but also put pressure on Snedeker to remain in solo-second with a bogey on the 18th. Such finishes are a great start to the 2013 season for both players.