Anything (almost) goes at the coolest little hole in golf, the 16th at the TPC of Scottsdale
THE VOLUME SEEMED MUTED last Saturday at the Funhouse--a.k.a. the 162-yard 16th hole at the TPC of Scottsdale--and I was beginning to wonder if the par-3 was no longer the loudest, coolest hole on the PGA Tour. As usual, the 9,000 or so fans were there, filling the skyboxes flanking the right side of the hole, the grandstands on the left and the large spectator mound to the right of the green. But something was wrong. At the tunnellike entrance to the tee, where emerging players used to be greeted by a thunderous roar, only a handful of college kids chanted "L-S-U! L-S-U!" at die-hard Tigers fan David Toms. In years past every tee shot was followed by a deafening "Go in the hole!" Not on Saturday. The Funhouse, I feared, had lost its groove.
Soon it became apparent why. The public grandstands adjacent to the tee had been moved 35 yards down the fairway, replaced with more sedate corporate boxes by the Thunderbirds, the group that puts on the FBR Open. Also, armed police stood in the front row of the grandstands facing potential troublemakers. As an added measure, a voice on the public-address system announced, "Quiet on the tee, please!" as each pro got ready to play his shot. "That really works," said a pleased Jock Holliman, the Thunderbird in charge of 16.
Holliman explained the challenge of keeping the lid on 16. "See that kid in the green cap?" he said, pointing to a young man holding a dozen neatly stacked plastic cups. "That's how many beers he's had." Security had removed three fans earlier in the afternoon, and since then, he added, "everything has been calm." The show of force was partially in response to a pair of incidents the day before. When John Daly's threesome showed up sans JD--he had WD'd after a first-round 81--the grandstanders chanted, "Where is Daly? [Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!] He's out drinking! [Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!]" The Thunderbirds thought that chant, as well as the one that went up for world No. 1 Vijay Singh--"Who's your cad-die? [Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!]"--was over the top.
On Saturday the 16th didn't really come to life until Phil Mickelson popped out of the tunnel and was greeted--like old times--with an explosion of sound. Mickelson grinned his goofy grin as he drank in the scene. When he hit his tee shot there was a another thunderclap of noise. When he sank a lengthy par-saving putt minutes later, there was an even louder cascade of sound, if that was possible. The Funhouse, I was reassured, is still the loudest, coolest hole on Tour. --G.V.S.