- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
It wasn't right. Somehow, the loudest party disguised as a golf tournament wound up with the quietest ending. So call it the Ironic Open, not the Waste Management Phoenix Open or even the Wasted Open, as locals dub it for the widespread consumption of adult beverages by celebrating attendees.
Now we know why tournament officials normally insist on an early Sunday finish—so fans can get home to watch the Super Bowl. Because even though frost delays throughout the week meant golfers had to play until dark on Sunday, and 35 of them had to return on Monday to conclude the tournament, fans poured out in mid-afternoon to race home for a certain football game.
Players weren't thrilled about the conflict either. "The saddest thing is, I couldn't watch the first half of the Super Bowl," said Mark Wilson, a Wisconsin native and, by birthright, a die-hard Packers fan who outlasted Jason Dufner in a two-hole playoff for his fourth Tour victory. It just so happened that Wilson had consolation—regular updates from TV crews and the few remaining fans, plus a two-shot lead by the time darkness halted his long day's journey into night on the 13th green.
Still, the Super Bowl exodus turned the tournament's normally electric atmosphere into a super dud. The par-3 16th, for example, is the tournament's signature hole, and Saturday is the event's signature day. That's when golf's most ridiculously large galleries turn out—131,627 this time. At least 20,000 congregate around the 16th, which is surrounded by grandstands and luxury boxes and is home to cheers, jeers, friendly wagers and roars.
A few fans showed up Monday morning for the finish, but that paled in comparison to the frenzied throng on Saturday who watched Aussie Jarrod Lyle ace the 16th. Lyle passed out high fives, dropped a drowned-out f bomb and ebulliently urged on the already fired-up crowd in a moment that will live in tournament highlight history.
Wilson and caddie Chris Jones donned cheeseheads, led fans in Packers cheers and walked to the green on Sunday as if they were kings. It turns out they were. Wilson may be golf's new marathon man. He won the Sony Open in Hawaii three weeks earlier when he didn't make a bogey in a 36-hole Sunday finish caused by rain delays, and won in Phoenix during a week of extended and interrupted rounds—he got in four holes on Thursday, 28 on Friday, four more on Saturday, almost 31 on Sunday and the rest on Monday.
Wilson, 36, who resides in suburban Chicago these days, is suddenly golf's only two-time winner in 2011. He's enjoying that, plus the big win by the Packers. At 5' 8" and 145 pounds he's not a big hitter like the players atop the SI Golf Rankings (right), but he is among the Tour's best clutch putters.
Asked if this is the start of his era of domination or just the power of cheese, Wilson laughed. "I'll go with the cheese," he said.
Behold its power.
Now on GOLF.com