Has TPC Scottsdale's 16th crossed the line?

By Jason SobelJanuary 29, 2014, 5:37 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The confluence of events at golf’s biggest party nearly reached an all-time high last year. This was Saturday afternoon at TPC Scottsdale’s infamous 16th hole, the bewitching hour for boisterousness as the most well attended tournament in the world was getting ready to wind down for the day. Or more to the point, the partygoers were preparing for the afterparty.

Favorite son Phil Mickelson, playing in the final group, had already been leading for three days, in itself enough to cause an even more frenzied atmosphere than usual. Then he stepped up to the tee box and hit a shot to within inches of the hole. It paled in comparison to Tiger Woods’ iconic hole-in-one and awkward raise-the-roof celebration from 1997, but only slightly. Pandemonium ensued, the 15,000 spectators surrounding the hole unable to contain their enthusiasm.

“They were excited, let’s put it that way,” said Keegan Bradley, who was playing in that final group. “Which they should have been – he’s their guy, he’s playing well, he’s going to win the tournament, he almost hit a hole-in-one. It was loud and crazy. I was playing with Bill Haas. We had a few things thrown at us.”

Photo gallery: Fans go crazy at TPC Scottsdale's 16th

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Haas doesn’t recall any specifics of that moment – which speaks volumes about the 16th hole, that having things thrown at a competitor doesn’t even register on the annoyance scale – but he does remember an incident from the same hole earlier in the week.

“A grown man punched a marshal in the face and took him to the ground, right by the tee,” he recalled. “It wasn’t like a 20-year-old college kid who was too drunk. It was somebody’s dad. And it was all because the marshal told him to be quiet, so he punched him.”

All of which should lead to one potentially incendiary question: Have the Waste Management Phoenix Open crowds – more specifically, those rowdy, alcohol-induced galleries at the 16th hole – gotten out of hand?

Call it the clichéd example of a few bad apples spoiling the entire bunch. After all, there aren’t a few thousand grown men punching marshals in the face, but really, it only takes one to shine the spotlight on the drawbacks of throwing a party within the confines of a golf tournament.

According to PGA Tour officials, the event will sustain increased security measures this week, but only because every event on this year’s schedule is undergoing these enhancements.

“Coming out of the terrible tragedy in Boston at the marathon last April, we stepped up our annual review of security programs to make sure they’re sufficient to provide a reasonable level of safety to our players, fans and volunteers,” said Andy Pazder, EVP and Chief of Operations for the PGA Tour.

This included beefing up a wanding policy for every person entering tournament grounds that was previously only strongly encouraged toward individual events, but has now been instituted as mandatory protocol.

That goes for PGA Tour players, too. One competitor in this week’s event was stopped by a security guard who demanded he leave behind the divot-repair tool in his pocket. “Fine,” the player shot back, “but you’re going to have to come fix my ball marks.”

Gone, too, are the caddie races, which had become a staple on the 16th hole. For years, fans had placed wagers in the bleachers as to which looper would reach the green first, unbeknownst to them. Those unassuming walks turned into mild jogs, then all-out sprints, eventually peaking – or bottoming out, according to Ponte Vedra Beach headquarters – with brothers Kip and Brent Henley hilariously racing each other to the delight of the crowd. Their rivalry-driven chase garnered so much attention that it topped Mickelson’s near-ace in one national sportscast’s top plays of the day.

Those races have now been banned, but according to officials it’s not for stealing the spotlight from actual play.

“We’re not doing the caddie races out of an abundance of concern for the caddies’ health,” Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour’s EVP of communications, explained in a comment that left more than a few caddies on the TPC Scottsdale range unable to contain their giggling.

Other than that, though, the 16th-hole hysteria will continue as always this week – marshal-punching notwithstanding.

It will still be golf’s biggest party, still the loudest, most raucous atmosphere in the game. Some tournaments might not get 15,000 spectators for an entire day; the 16th alone garners that many for all four tournament rounds, no problem.

Sometimes that means a line will be crossed, but it’s striking that balance which leaves officials keeping a close eye on the festivities each year.

“We carefully monitor what goes on at the Waste Management Phoenix Open from a fan standpoint,” Pazder said. “We want our fans to have fun, but we want them to also be respectful of our players and caddies. We want those out there to watch golf and do that in an environment that’s family friendly, not excessively profane. We don’t want the rowdiness to detract from it being a terrific community event.”

In this respect, the players agree – even those who have endured things thrown at them during the course of play.

“Once a year, on that hole, you’re ready for it; you’re ready to accept it,” Bradley concluded. “It’s tough to control the 16th, but they do the best they can.”

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium Course to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time.

The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine – and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Mickelson misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.