Super Combo in Scottsdale

By Ian HutchinsonJanuary 29, 2008, 5:00 pm
Unlike many mere mortals who will be glued to the tube this Sunday, Deuce Lutui would prefer to be working that day, but it will be the New York Giants and undefeated New England Patriots instead of his Arizona Cardinals on home turf at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, just outside of Phoenix.
The mammoth O-lineman does have the consolation of enjoying Super Bowl festivities in the host city, an area in which he grew up after arriving from the South Pacific nation of Tonga as an infant and settling in nearby Mesa.
The Valley of the Sun will grab the lions share of the sporting headlines this week, not only because of the big game. The final round of the FBR Open will be played the same day at nearby TPC Scottsdale and thats a tournament too brash to be overshadowed by the big kahuna of North American sporting events.
Lutui knows from experience the impact of both football and golf in the Valley, particularly at the collegiate level with the presence of the Arizona State Sun Devils. He may play for the home team now, but Lutui recalls coming home as a member of the opposing USC Trojans.
It was hot and it was crazy, recalled Lutui. The students section didnt care about the weather. There were a lot of loyal ASU fans. When USC came down to play ASU in their stadium, talk about a hostile situation, but it was a homecoming for me.
Being a home boy means Lutui also understands the passion for golf, even though he doesnt play himself. I might sink through the greens, joked the 6-foot-4, 328-pounder.
Growing up in Arizona with the many, many golf courses we have, its crazy. We have more golf courses than McDonalds here in the Valley, said Lutui, who saw the epitome of crazy when he visited the rowdy par-3, 16th hole at the FBR Open last year.
Tom Lehman once compared playing the 16th to taking a golf shot at the Rose Bowl and Lutui, who played in two Rose Bowls with USC, says that comparison isnt far off.
'It's pretty intense right there at the 16th hole and comparing it to the Rose Bowl, it's almost the same thing,' said Lutui. I didnt know there were that many people in Arizona.
Needless to say, the FBR Open has a unique character, unlike any other on the PGA TOUR, and the zany atmosphere continues at watering holes such as The Greenskeepers Tent at the golf course and the off-course Birds Nest, two places where football fans will definitely feel at home.
With passion running high for both events, the FBR Open and Super Bowl are expected to complement one another instead of being rival events just 30 miles apart.
For one thing, the FBR Open holds the unofficial TOUR attendance record after 536,787 were on hand in 2006 and a new standard could be set this year with so many sports fans from out of town.
The third round is traditionally the most well-attended day, often with more than 150,000 people, and that number could swell to as high as 200,000 the day before the Super Bowl.
Super Sunday could actually see more people than usual at TPC Scottsdale considering that University of Phoenix Stadium will hold 73,000 for the big game and many of those tickets are held by corporations. Many will arrive for the festivities without Super Bowl tickets, which could benefit the golf tournament.
'It will be fantastic,' said TOUR veteran Billy Mayfair, a former Sun Devil still residing in the Valley.
'Because of where the game is played and where this golf course is, so far apart, you're still going to have people who are going to go home and watch the game on Sunday and everyone is going to be out (at the FBR Open) on Saturday.'
The FBR Open is always a highlight of the Phoenix/Scottsdale sporting calendar, and its little wonder with the millions raised each year for area charitable organizations through the Thunderbirds, the civic group that runs the tournament.
Add to that the $200-million in economic impact from the tournament and as much as $500-million from the Super Bowl and its a win-win situation for the community, which will also benefit from spinoff effects such as increased media coverage of an area that counts so heavily on tourism.
Instead of being overshadowed, the FBR Open is expected to make the Super Bowl festivities unique according to a guy better known for baseball, but certainly familiar with the golf tournament and the Valley, where he has a home.
'This place is a rock and roll place. It's a very popular vacation spot and the population out here is exploding, said legendary Milwaukee Brewers announcer Bob Uecker.
'I don't care what they play on the final day of the FBR Open -- that's got its own identity. Unless you've played in it, been there or watched it, it's shocking to see the amount of people there.'
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    Toronto Sun Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun and senior writer for Pro Shop Magazine, a Canadian golf trade publication, and Canadian Golfer Magazine. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
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