SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—As usual, a golf tournament broke out, but just barely, during the party that is the third round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
It’s tough when you’ve got a reputation to live up to, but the WMPO, as local headline writers call it, did it again on a glorious Saturday afternoon.
Ben Crane donned a black motorcycle helmet and goggles, which he magically produced from his golf bag on the 16th tee, then joined Bubba Watson in liberating a microphone at the tee for a brief, semi-musical re-enactment of their sophomoric-but-still-funny “Golf Boys” video. It was silly. It was crazy. It was fun.
And that’s the stuff that Saturdays at the Phoenix Open are made of.
Watson, of course, had set the tone for the week when he tooled into the clubhouse parking lot each day driving his new purchase—the original General Lee Dodge Charger from “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
Watson and Crane’s act prompted CBS to air a clip from their infamous music video of last year and attracted a wave of post-round attention from the media on their impromptu 16th tee show.
“We just wanted to get ’em fired up,” Watson said. “It was kinda boring out there.”
“Yeah, we never heard those fans all day,” Crane joked.
Crane wore the black helmet about halfway to the green, but then he removed it, disappointing some fans who were hoping he’d putt with it on. “I don’t have much experience putting with a helmet on,” said Crane, who is known for his wild and crazy videos on YouTube. “I need to go work on that at the practice green.”
A Golf Channel crew corralled the duo next and a producer handed the black helmet to Crane with the pre-interview instructions, “Put this on any time you want.” Crane didn’t comply, but he did offer a “hats off” to his caddie for lugging the helmet in his bag for the whole round. No doubt he meant, “helmets off.”
Asked who was the brains in the outfit, Watson quickly replied, “He must be the brains because I’m the beauty.”
Later, they admitted it was Crane who conferred with Watson once he noticed Saturday morning that they were paired together, and they decided they’d sing their portion of the lyrics from their “Golf Boys” video on the 16th tee.
“I didn’t have my overalls on,” Watson mused, “but I might’ve gotten in trouble if I had.”
Asked how much fun it was to be paired with Crane, Watson replied, “Hated it.”
Pretending to be insulted, Crane told him, “I don’t even know you anymore.”
From the start, it seemed obvious Saturday would be another one of those crazy Phoenix Open days. At 10 a.m., before the third round had even begun, one spectator was already handcuffed and on the ground near the entrance, obviously hammered. Police officers repeatedly asked him his name. “Titleist,” he said giddily. The cops reached for the Breathalyzer machine.
At noon, a female fan near the entrance was vomiting into a green Waste Management recyclables bin. Noon might seem a little early to have imbibed too much, but remember, this is Phoenix and these are professionals. Or, maybe not that professional. The Waste Management trash bins are set up in pairs around the course. The green bin is for recycling—bottles, paper, cans and plastic cups. The white bin is for compost—paper cups, plates and food. The white bin, therefore, was the appropriate place to puke your guts out, not the green bin. Read the signs people. You’re better than this!
Rickie Fowler teed off at 16 with numerous caps stacked on his head. He knocked his tee shot on the green, jogged over to the stands and tossed the hats into the frothy crowd, then walked to the green and poured in a long birdie putt to earn a ridiculously loud roar.
The day’s second-loudest cheer was probably when local favorite Phil Mickelson stepped out of the tunnel from the 15th green into the corporate-box arena that is the 16th tee, the loudest hole in golf by a gaggle of decibels.
Saturday at TPC Scottsdale is the place to be if you like crazy. The attendance was estimated at 173,210, a tournament record. If anything, that estimate seemed low based on the thousands of fans who were still pouring through the front gate at 1:30 p.m. It felt and sounded like the 200,000 barrier might’ve been broken, but it was not to be.
Meanwhile, Spencer Levin maintained his lead in the actual golf tournament. (Hint: That’s the reason everyone was at the course, remember?) There were no 63s like Levin shot on Friday but lots of 67s by the likes of Watson, Greg Chalmers and Mickelson, to name a few. John Rollins put up a 65.
Levin didn’t expect to take a six-shot lead over Webb Simpson into the final round after a bad warm-up before the first round and an opening bogey that had him whining to his caddie that, “This might be a nine-hole round.”
On Saturday, Levin tacked on a 68 and gave himself a cushion for Sunday’s finale. He also attracted a slew of comments from Phoenix Open fans when he lit cigarettes while walking the fairways.
“I got comments every time,” Levin said, grinning. “I liked that. They tried to bum one off me a lot.”
Which makes Levin just the kind of offbeat leader and potential winner that this tournament deserves.
Another odd flavoring to the day was the planned green-out. Waste Management asked everyone to wear green in support of the environment. Fowler, among others, fully immersed himself in the color. In fact, they may have to retire the color green after his outfit.
Most players took part in the rally. “There were some out there that were a little bit iffy, if you ask me,” joked Mickelson, who wore a classic sea-foam green shirt and white slacks.
Saturday in Phoenix is always a tough day to focus. There’s the party, there’s the golf and there’s the shadow of Sunday’s football game. Early on in the telecast, CBS showed a graphic with its golf analysts’ predictions—not that we’d asked. For the record, all but Gary McCord picked the Patriots. McCord went with the Giants. One media member asked Mickelson for his call, since he’d declined to make one earlier in the week. Mickelson said the Giants. Why, he was asked—because of their defense? Watching his words, Mickelson answered, “I don’t know.”
That answer was also a good way to describe this indescribable third round. The course is swarming with fans, crowds like you’ve never seen. It’s noisy, it’s crazy, it’s full of surprises.
Watson and Crane took inspiration from the alleged quiet around the 16th tee. “We heard nothing as we walked through the tunnel,” Watson said.
“Yeah,” Crane laughed, “it was like a golf tournament out there.”
Every now and then, anyway.