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The 16th at Phoenix

February 4, 2012 - Al Stephenson
If you are not doing anything for the next couple of hours, you may want to tune in to the coverage of the PGA Tour's Waste Management Phoenix Open. This tournament is known for one particular hole, as the par-3 16th is the rowdiest hole in golf.

Stadium golf is an interesting concept as the game allows spectators to get up close to the action. Normally a quiet respectful crowd will attend tour events. That is not the case at the 16th at TPC Scottsdale. 15,000 fans will fill seats around this hole today. There behavior will be the most raucus scene you will see all year. It's fun, it's crazy and believe it or not it is controlled.

Golfers are notorious for hearing any little sound while swinging a club. Only Tiger seems to be able to stop his club in the middle of the downswing, but you have to be on your toes at this hole. As soon as a golfer makes contact, the crowd let's loose with a roar that will be heard for miles. With that size of crowd, it will be LOUD. The worst part of the scene for the golfer is after the result of the shot is determined.

Hit a mediocre shot that finds the green but not particularly near the hole and you will hear sighs of disappointment. Miss the green completely and you will get booed. The crowd is having fun and believe it or not most players love it. It makes for great theatre and I would suggest you tune in and check it out.

With a crowd this large, safety is a big concern. Part of the crowd control comes from a group of spectators themselves. A large contingent of alumni from Arizona State University plan a vacation each year that coincides with the tournament. They gather at the 16th with crib sheets that allow them to chant things for each player. One touring pro was surprised to learn that the crowd knew the name of his dog which was part of his welcoming chant. This same group of people help the marshalls police the crowd. They will point out patrons who do not follow rules of etiquette and help to have them removed.

It is amazing how rowdy the crowd can get, but when a golfer is preparing to hit his shot the huge throng will go silent - at least until the ball is struck. Then all you-know-what breaks loose.

The crowd will be large today, but not on the final round tomorrow. Why, you ask? Fans leave early on Sunday to go watch the Super Bowl. Some suggest that the tournament should end on Saturday, allowing the fans to be wild on the final day of the tournament. Others suggest the 16th should be the finishing hole for the tourney.

The view from my seat would suggest that either or both of these procedures would be welcome changes. Though they probably aren't going to happen, to take in this scene will be well worth a little of your time today.


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