Sweet 16: Where the party never ends

By Jason CrookFebruary 5, 2017, 12:26 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The gates at the Waste Management Phoenix Open opened at 7 a.m. on Saturday. The sprint to the grandstands at TPC Scottsdale’s famed 16th hole began at 7:01.

Fans filled up the stadium as quickly as humanly possible for Round 3 and the party was rocking by the time the first group came through a full three hours later. THREE HOURS! About enough time to squeeze in a screening of “Titanic.” That’s a lot of boozing.

There were beach balls flying, chants roaring, water guns spraying … and then the golfers arrived.

The fans are smart – they know their golf, and they’re picky – they don’t applaud every safe shot to the middle of the green. But mostly, they’re just drunk. Really, really drunk. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, it’s a scene, man.

Draped mostly in green as part of Waste Management’s sustainability initiative, fans serenade the golfers with cheers, jeers and everything in between from the moment they make their way out of the tunnel near the tee box until they walk off the green.

The second group through was hometown favorite Jon Rahm, who donned an Arizona State jersey for the third straight day. The fans stopped challenging each other to chugging contests for long enough to let out a monstrous roar when he poured in a birdie, but then it was right back to the party.

“Blue shirt! Blue shirt! Blue shirt!” a group yelled as they pointed at a man in, you guessed it, a blue shirt. Blue Shirt didn’t want to chug his beer at first, but was loudly booed until he obliged.

White Shirt chugged a Bloody Mary.

Pink Shirt chugged too many of whatever she was chugging.

Waste Management Phoenix Open: Social, scores and news

All that drinking makes for a generally fun-loving crowd, especially for the players that play along.

Many hand stuff out to the crowd at 16, whether it’s shirts or hats or - after they've finished the hole - the ball they used.

The people love those players. You’ve never seen so many Ken Duke fans in your life. One woman was begging for a date with Andrew "Beef" Johnston, who’s been giving away Arby’s merchandise all week.

“It’s like a mob mentality,” said one volunteer responsible for keeping the crowd “under control.” “You have to get them on your side or they’ll turn on you.”

Those that don’t might want to think about changing their strategy. The people holding up the “quiet” signs are no match for the performance-enhanced crowd in the stadium. They’re not afraid. They’re dressed up and screaming things they won’t even remember tomorrow.

As Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Elmo and Oscar the Grouch looked on, King Koopa got a little unruly toward the Phil Mickelson group and was tossed out by a police officer. He couldn’t have been the only one.

It's not just the players who are targeted. The fans aren't afraid to turn on each other.

One man with long hair was playfully taunted with chants of “Fabio! Fabio!” every time he got up from his seat. In fairness, he did look like the guy.

As quickly as the players came through No. 16 on Saturday, they were gone, leaving with a fewer hats and shirts, but more memories – good and bad.

The scene at the end of the day looked very much like the one at the start. Fans stayed long after play concluded and were more than happy to do so.

Sunday won’t be quite as intense, but the fans will give it their best effort. After all, it’s their last chance to party with a side of golf until next year.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.