SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (AP) — For a change, the FBR Open isn’t the biggest show in Scottsdale, not with the Super Bowl just down the freeway.
Still, it’s “party on” when the U.S. PGA Tour’s most raucous event begins a four-day run on Thursday at TPC Scottsdale.
The FBR draws the largest crowds on the tour. The biggest day is Saturday, when more than 150,000 revelers are expected to attend. Some even watch the golf. Total attendance has topped a half-million each of the past four years.
When the Super Bowl was held in nearby Tempe in 1996, the tournament moved up its schedule with the final round on Saturday. Not this year. The competition will end on Sunday, about an hour before the New England Patriots and New York Giants kick off for the NFL championship at Glendale.
As usual, Tiger Woods is not entered, opting instead for a more lucrative trip to Dubai. Woods hasn’t played here since 2001, when it was known as the Phoenix Open.
The biggest name in the competition for a winner’s purse of just over $1 million (680,000) is two-time champion Phil Mickelson, who beat Justin Leonard in a playoff to win that 1996 event.
Mickelson, who lived in Scottsdale for 12 years, also won in 2005 but missed the cut last year.
“I putted just terribly,” he said. “The next three or four days after this event all I did was putt. Then I won the following week (at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am).”
Attempts are being made to calm the crowd a bit this week.
Fans will be limited to two beers per trip to the concession stand and beer won’t be sold in the stand closest to the infamous 16th hole.
Bleachers surround that par-3, 162-yard hole, packed with rowdy fans who sometimes greet golfers with their university fight song or, for the international players, maybe their national anthem but lustily boo bad shots.
“It’s special to this tournament. It’s special to this town,” defending champion Aaron Baddeley of Australia said. “People around here who don’t know anything about golf know the 16th hole in Phoenix.
“It’s like the shortest, easiest most intimidating hole in the world because it’s not a difficult hole, but when you’ve got 17,000 people ready to boo you if you hit a bad shot, it’s a little bit intimidating.”
The course was drenched by rain on Monday but clear weather was forecast through most of the rest of the week. Temperatures only reached the high 50s (low teens C) during Wednesday’s pro-am but are expected to climb into the mid-60s (high teens C) on Friday and Saturday. There is a chance of showers on Sunday.
With it’s wide-open desert layout, the par-71, 7,216-yard (6,598-meter) course lends itself to low scores.
“You’re probably going to have to shoot 20 under to win,” Baddeley said. “It’s just go out there, play hard, hit it straight and make some putts. That’s the key. It’s making putts, really, because everyone is going to hit fairways, everyone is going to hit some greens.”
Baddeley, who now makes his home in Scottsdale, won last year with a 21-under 263, one shot better than John Rollins and two ahead of Jeff Quinney.
There has been no repeat champion in the event since Johnny Miller in 1974-75.
“Like I said, you’ve got to putt well,” Baddeley said. “Some weeks putts don’t drop and some weeks they do.”