As par 3s go, TPC Scottsdale’s 16th hole is neither gorgeous nor grueling. It doesn’t photograph nearly as well as the seventh at Pebble Beach and it certainly doesn’t baffle the world’s best players like No. 12 at Augusta National. A flat patch of scrub and sand, a splash of grass on a canvas of beige, one doesn’t get the sense course architects Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf spent weeks poring over the hole’s finest intracacies.
Tiger Woods aced it back in 1997, before the twin rows of bleachers yielded to a fully enclosed mini-arena, but in terms of historical value, Scottsdale’s 16th really doesn’t rank. Given that it’s the third-to-last hole on the course, you would think the 16th has affected the final outcome of many Phoenix Opens over the years. It hasn’t, particularly when you compare it with the island-green 17th at TPC Sawgrass, which has become a cemetery of dashed hopes at The Players Championship.
Quail Hollow’s 17th hole is a better par 3 than Scottsdale’s 16th. Riviera Country Club has a couple of superior short ones. We could go on, but only at the risk of belaboring the point.
In an age when making a lot of noise can make you famous, Scottsdale’s 16th has elbowed its way onto golf’s red carpet simply by turning up the volume on the yahoo factor. This weekend’s telecast will feature plenty of action from the 16th, where the coliseum-like seating capacity has grown to about 20,000, where the atmosphere has become a cross between a “Let’s Make a Deal” audience and an Alabama-Auburn football game.
I suppose that when golf lets its hair down, it’s front-page news. The 17th at Sawgrass has been known to produce a bit of fan commotion, but nothing like the organized mayhem at Scottsdale, where the name ‘Waste Management Open’ kind of makes sense. No other Tour stop is capable of such a scene, and thus, the Little Par 3 That Roared has basically given the event a unique identity.
Good for the game? Bad for the game? I see no harm. Honest fun in the mid-winter sun. Surely, many had never attended a golf tournament prior to spending an afternoon at the 16th, then stumbled away thinking every weekend on the PGA Tour is a blast. Given that it measures a mere 162 yards, you’d think the hole might be lengthened just to accommodate more seating. When there’s revenue involved, there’s always room.
In actuality, the final three holes at TPC Scottsdale could all use a bit more muscle. As closing stretches go, 16-17-18 has become outdated: a short-iron; then a driveable par-4; then a driver/wedge into a wide, uncluttered target. There’s nothing wrong with giving the fellas a chance to score, but finishes this soft won’t do much to enhance your long-term competitive drama.
Then again, I suppose you could just leave well enough alone. The old Greater Hartford Open used to draw Scottsdale-like crowds, but over time, it struggled to hold title sponsors, which led to shifting dates, weaker fields and much smaller galleries. This week’s Tour stop remains one of a handful that generates an extreme level of local interest. A little noise never hurt anyone. A lot of noise hasn’t, either.
Check out Jason Sobel's live blog from the par-3 16th at TPC Scottsdale, Thursday and Friday on GolfChannel.com from 3-7PM ET.