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.

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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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Haas nearly shoots age in taking Champions playoff opener lead

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 10:05 pm

RICHMOND, Va.  -- Jay Haas shot a 7-under 65 - missing his age by a stroke - to take a two-shot lead Saturday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Trying to become the oldest winner in tour history, the 64-year-old Haas birdied the par-5 16th and 18th holes to get to 11-under 133 on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''I've been out here too long to know that I can learn to expect anything,'' Haas said. ''While I'm hopeful every day and I've been playing OK, the last couple weeks have not been very good, but this week has been much better. I love this golf course and it looks good to my eye. Most of the holes look like I'm going to hit a good shot, so I enjoy playing here.''

Mike Fetchick set the age record of 63 years to the day in the 1985 Hilton Head event. Haas is second on the list, taking the 2016 Toshiba Classic at 62 years, 10 months, 7 days for his 18th senior title.

''That's a good way to say I'm old, 'experience,''' Haas said. ''I think I'm very nervous most of the time when I play and today was no exception, but I continued to hit good shots and, hopefully, I can put one foot in front of the other, one shot at a time, do what I tell my son to do every time, you know? See if I can put some of those adages to work tomorrow.''

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

Stephen Ames and Scott Dunlap were tied for second after the round that started in light rain. Ames had a 67, and Dunlap shot 68.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer had a 66 to join Billy Mayfair (67) and Woody Austin (68) at 9 under. Langer won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the season points lead. The 61-year-old German star has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, was tied for 23rd at 4 under after a 71.

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Sergio leads by 4 entering final round at Valderrama

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 9:26 pm

Sergio Garcia closed with three straight birdies to shoot a 7-under 64 on Saturday, taking a four-shot lead into the third and final round of the Andalusia Valderrama Masters.

The tournament, which Garcia has won  twice (2017, 2011), was reduced to 54 holes because of numerous weather-related delays.

With his bogey-free round, Garcia moved to 10 under, four shots clear of Englishman Ashley Chesters, who shot a 1-under 70.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

"Hopefully we'll be able to play well tomorrow and get another win at Valderrama," Garcia said. "Hopefully I can finish it in style."

Chesters, however, is conceding nothing. "There's always a chance," he said. "There's not a lot of pressure on me."

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

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"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."