Friday, February 26, 2010

The loudest hole in golf and the most famous hole in Arizona, not counting the Grand Canyon, is the par-3 16th at TPC Scottsdale, where fans come to cheer and beers go to disappear.
Things were fairly subdued at the fabled 16th on Thursday, relative to history. The hole, now surrounded by grandstands and luxury boxes, has used this unique atmosphere to turn a relatively nondescript par 3 into a hole to be feared. It's a place where fans are free to boo bad shot, chant nicknames and pretty much do anything else they feel like. It's mostly good-natured fun.
Adam Schupak of Golfweek experienced the madness, one of several pieces sure to be written about the 16th's party atmosphere this week:

 They enter through the tunnel to the 16th hole like gladiators entering the Coliseum.
"They open the gates and here come the slaves," says Gary McCord,
who has had a ringside seat for years as CBS Sports' anchor of the
hole. "It's like the old medieval taunting days."
The par-3, 162-yard hole is unlike anything else in golf, a hole
that last year became totally enclosed with skybox suites and handles
20,000 riotous fans. Everyone has his own sports analogy to describe
it. Charley Hoffman compared it to playing one hole a year inside a
football stadium, Nick Watney to standing at the foul line with a
basketball game on the line.
"Forget the Road Hole at St. Andrews. This is the greatest hole in golf," comedian George Lopez gushed with a straight face.
I don't know about that, but this first-timer came away impressed
with the level of fan enthusiasm (though it would be nice if a few more
people actually paid attention. News flash: there's a golf tournament
going on below). It reminded me of the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass on
steroids – and it was only Thursday. They chant. They cheer. They boo.
Relentlessly.
Before each group teed off, a voice over a loudspeaker asked attendees in the SkyBox for "Quiet please!" It was about as effective as telling shoppers not to run when the
doors open at Wal-Mart on Black Friday.
Some players dig it and some dread it. Fans can be ruthless. They've chanted Supercuts for Hoffman's long
hair, sweater vest at Kenny Perry's attire... But most players embrace it. They chuckle at the creativity of fans that do their homework ahead of time.
"I think they had a computer out and Googled my name," said Perry,
who was impressed when they serenaded him with the Western Kentucky
fight song of his alma mater. "You definitely don't want them on your bad side."
Jason Sobel of ESPN.com live blogged most of Thursday's round from the bleachers at the 16th hole
12:59: Now
this really is a shame. James Nitties is now on the teebox, but even
though the crowd is growing larger, the fans aren't quite singing songs
and chanting names yet. And why is that a shame? Because we're missing out on what they chanted to young James last year: "Show Us Your Nitties!"
1:04: I just spoke with a very nice marshal named Rick who wanted to know why someone would bring a laptop to the 16th hole.
When I explained it to him, he said, "Oh, I don't know much about that blogging, but I hear it's pretty big." 
He promised me he'd check this out later. So, um... hi, Rick! 
I'm all about winning over new readers, one by one. 
7:08: Huge cheers for Mickelson as he emerges from the tunnel. 
First up, though, is Match Play champion Ian Poulter, who hits one
off the back of the green to catcalls of, "This ain't Tucson!" 
Next is Mickelson, who gets another huge ovation ... only to overcook one to the right.
And they boo him! Tough crowd.

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