The fans are the real stars at the Phoenix Open during a wild day at the par-3 16th

Sunday February 6th, 2011
Fred Vuich/SI

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Hundreds of golf fans in Scottsdale are still MIA after Saturday's warm-up for their Super Bowl parties. That's "Mashed In Arizona," obviously. Shortly after lunch on Saturday, Phil Mickelson arrived at the 16th. Boom, baby! Cue bedlam. There were 20,000 screaming fans crammed into 132 double-decker VIP skyboxes and general-admission bleachers, turning the 162-yard par 3 into a rock concert.

It was safe to assume that the majority had not been sipping iced tea. It was Happy Gilmore meets "The Jerry Springer Show" meets Animal House toga party.

"A.S.U, A.S.U," they yelled at Phil — either dyslexic drunks practicing for the Ryder Cup or students from Phil's old Arizona State University. Mickelson hit the green but never threatened the flag. They booed him. Tough crowd.

Then he drained the 32-footer for birdie.

Kaboom!

"I wanted to make that putt sooo bad," Mickelson said. "Somebody was saying that one day they'll put a dome over 16. Then they really will be able to raise the roof."

Maybe they could get Bruce Springsteen or The Who or the Black Eyed Peas to keep the joint rocking between groups. Hey, if it's good enough for the Super Bowl ...

Mickelson's playing partner Bubba Watson was serenaded with an accidental grunge version (they couldn't sing) of "The Star-Spangled Banner." They were trying to make Bubba blub. Marshals held up their "Quiet Please" paddles, but it was not so much an order — more a suggestion — and it was largely ignored. Watson hit amid the din and then ran along the side of the bleachers tossing caps into the crowd. Stampede! It was like feeding time at the zoo.

"It's the closest we get to playing in a football stadium," Watson said. "But once a year is quite enough!"

There was a scrum to grab one of his hats between a bunch of Minnesota Viking fans, the unofficial cheerleaders in the cheap seats. One of their number had "Moon" emblazoned on the back of his purple jersey. Thankfully he didn't. Judging by the amount of fizzy stuff that he and his pals had been consuming, a search party might still be needed to find them. Two of them said they had Baileys in their coffee and vodka in their orange juice at breakfast before heading for 16.

The sign on the 16th tee that greets the players as they arrive at the tee box says, "Welcome to the most exciting hole in golf. Attitude is everything." And it's the attitude of the crowd that creates the atmosphere. Hit the green and "youthemaaan!" Miss it and get booed to the 17th tee. The only exception is for Boo Weekley, who gets booed just for being Boo. And he loves it.

Weekley was playing with Rickie Fowler. Saturday was "Green Out" day at the tournament (to raise recycling awareness plus millions of dollars for charities), so naturally Fowler turned up as a leprechaun — head to toe in fluorescent green. All he needed to complete the outfit was to borrow a green frizzy wig from one of the hundreds being worn around the hole. Fowler nearly aced the hole. They booed him anyway. Nearly doesn't cut it.

Jarrod Lyle won the nearest-to-the-pin contest. He dunked it to get the party started. OK, the party had started a long time before he got to 16.

"It disappeared, and I'm like, holy hell," Lyle said. "I dropped an F-bomb, so there might be a letter in my locker."

The roar didn't quite match the sonic boom that followed Tiger Woods when he aced in 1997 and the tee box was showered in beer cans. "The roar sounded like a 747 taking off," said one of the Thunderbirds at the time.

Woods doesn't come to Scottsdale any more. The joke wore thin when someone haranguing him in 1999 was found to be carrying a gun. Then in 2001, an orange was rolled onto the green as he was lining up a putt. Admittedly not as life threatening, but Woods was no longer laughing.

Whatever. The party rages on without him. So riotous have matters become that the Scottsdale Police Department is sincerely concerned.

"We're hoping that people decide how they're going to get home before they take that first drink," said a police spokesman. "Hopefully we'll be able to say we had no fatalities."

At the 16th, it's a heady cocktail of cold beer, sunshine and, oh yes, golf.

"I try to put earplugs in when I get to the 16th because you can definitely hear the wrong things if you're listening out for them," said 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman. "But, you know, that's one of the most knowledgeable crowds in golf because those guys go on the Internet and research every player that's going to come through there, and when you get on the tee they scream out something about you."

Not much research was needed for Shout Out of the Day. All we can reveal is that the player whose second name acquired a little more length was Jason Bohn.

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