FBR A Hole Lotta Fun


Its Monday of Super Bowl week. But starting Thursday, every day at the 162-yard 16th at the TPC Scottsdale will be a Super Bowl of duck soup for 20,000 pairs of leather lungs in an outdoor exercise in ear-splitting that only an audiologist could love.
One week every year on the PGA Tour, fan behavior at this otherwise innocuous little par 3 jumps out of the frying pandemonium and into the fire.
And this is that week. Welcome to the 2009 edition of the antepenultimate hole at the FBR Open where the initials might as well stand for fractious, bumptious and raucous. All, mind you, in the name of a good time.
Not to overhype it or anything, but the 16th is a hot house, a fun house and a nut house. It is a dog house, a frat house and a brew haus all wrapped up into one big combo enchilada of alcohol-marinated ectoplasm, endoplasm and escalated effervescence. There is, after all, a tightrope between too much alliteration and complete obliteration. Its time to walk the walk.
And at the risk of reiteration: They do convene at this Shoutatorium every year. They arrive in full throat. And, OK, maybe it's impossible to overhype the mix of enthusiasm, insolence and wonderfully sophomoric shenanigans that ensues.
By the way, if you think this column is over the top so far, wait until you see the way grown humans act late in the afternoon when the leaders come through the 16th Saturday and Sunday at TPC Scottsdale.
As GolfChannel.com reported late last year, this year tournament officials have added 3,000 bleacher seats which means the 16th will now be completely enclosed.
You will be reading about all of this much of the week. And you will be seeing a metric ton of it on Golf Channel. The 16th is a coliseum. The players are the gladiators. Must see tee vee.
Tournament chairman John Felix ' whose nickname was The Cat when he roomed with Golf Channels own Jerry Foltz at the University of Arizona ' says they actually considered changing the name of the 16th to The Coliseum.
But, he added, Part of the hole and the popularity there were the personalities who made it famous. Were conscious that it remains about the golf.
It feels more like a stadium, Felix The Cat said although he admits it sounds more like Arena Golf.
When Oakley, the people who make those designer sunglasses, originally sponsored the 16th several years ago they hung a small sign that the players saw as they walked through the tunnel that connects the 15th green to the 16th tee.
It said: Every athlete wants to be a rock star and every rock star wants to be an athlete.
One of the most popular rock star/athletes at the 16th at TPC Scottsdale is Phil Mickelson. And its no coincidence that Philly Mick, who attended nearby Arizona State, will make his 2009 PGA Tour debut this week.
Geoff Ogilvy blew the field away at windy Kapalua in Week One. Zach Johnson performed surgery on Seth Raynors tricky track at the Sony Open one week later. And Pat Perez went postal on par early and hung on late to win the Bob Hope Classic.
Now is the time for all good men and women who know just a little about golf and a lot about partying to come to the aid of the PGA Tour. It promises to be noisier than the Obama Inauguration and a very different kind of celebration.
I mean how many holes on the PGA Tour actually have an emcee?
The 16th at TPC Scottsdale does. His name is Jock Holliman. He is a long-time member of the Thunderbirds, the local civic group that stages the FBR Open. And Felix gives Holliman, the guy with the microphone, much of the credit for keeping the 20,000 lions in the stands from devouring the gladiators inside the ropes when their 15 minutes of infamy arrives.
Felix also has a plan that will enable spectators to hang around the grounds and watch Super Bowl XLIII on a Jumbotron. Kick-off is expected approximately 30 minutes after the last putt drops Sunday.
Ever since the Tour moved to TPC Scottsdale in 1987 the tournament has rarely failed to coincide with Super Bowl Week. The big difference this year is that one of the teams'the Arizona Cardinals'is local.
Meanwhile, the over and under at No. 16 will have nothing to do with points and everything to do with birdies, bogeys, boos, booze, chants, rants, raves, waves, woofs, barbs, barks, bites and bragging rights.
Im not sure Id want a steady diet of this, Bart Bryant told GolfChannel.com late last month. But his instructor, top 100 teacher Brian Mogg, said No. 16 is a good thing for the Tour.
Kind of like taking your Maybach 62 out on the open road and winding it up once in a while. But always keeping a hand on the throttle.
We dont want things to boil over, Felix said. Were always watching.
In 1999 security guards had to remove a fan from Tiger Woods gallery near the sixth hole at TPC Scottsdale basically because he was drunk and didnt know when to shut up when Woods was trying to hit his shots. The man was later found to have a gun in his fanny pack.
All of which turned into a public relations black eye for the tournament. Only later was it discovered that the spectator was a huge Woods fan, meant no harm and that he owned a permit for the gun. Regardless, Woods has been back to this tournament just one time since.
There have been no reports of fans with guns at No. 16. Just lots of testosterone, collagen, leather, designer shades and margaritas.
I think theres a pretty damn good party going on here, Hal Sutton once said. And theres a golf tournament lost somewhere in the middle of it.
Witnesses say the roar that accompanied Woods hole-in-one in 1997 at the 16th was the loudest ever heard on a golf course. Ask someone who was there and if their answer is, What? you will know why.
But the players, for the most part, have learned to go with the lava flow of heat they receive if they hit a poor shot on 16. If you dont like it, Rocco Mediate advised his fellow lodge brothers, dont come.
Theres always a line, Felix says. And when it gets crossed, officials (and security) come down on the side of the game and the players.
The fun part is watching how close to that line the throbbing, heaving, belching, jeering mass of humanity can get.
This year players not only emerge from the tunnel connecting 15 and 16, but they disappear into another tunnel that leads to the 17th tee.
Finally, former Masters chairman Hord Hardin famously remarked years ago that there would never be a Pizza Hut Masters. No, he said, The Masters would never be for sale to the highest corporate bidder.
Similarly, and maybe best of all, is the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale appears safe from the suggestions that it could fetch a high price for sponsorship.
Its not got a for sale sign on it, by any means, Felix told GolfChannel.com.
Which means, for all its impurities, No. 16 will remain pure.

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