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Hot Seat: Waste Management Phoenix Open

Waste Management Phoenix Open 16th hole
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Watch where you are sitting at TPC Scottsdale, especially around the 16th hole, there are an awful lot of Hot Seats there.

Here is our special heat index with the PGA Tour moving to the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the European Tour to the Commercialbank Qatar Masters and a lot of LPGA pros teeing it up at the Golf Coast RACV Australian Ladies Masters.

Valley Fever – Anyone teeing it up at the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale

The entire field at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is on the Hot Seat this week.

That’s because the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale may not be the most exciting hole in golf, or the most dramatic, or the most fun, but it’s without a doubt the most obnoxious.

Players are mere pawns there in one of the largest drinking games in the world.

It’s a little bit like Mardi Gras in the desert. If you can tolerate a little bit of beer being spilled on you, there is some crazy fun to be had, or endured.

Love it or loathe it, the 16th hole feels like it belongs because it naturally evolved there, like the cactus in the region.

Ian Poutler

Blistering heat rash – Ian Poulter

The last time Poulter played the TPC Scottsdale’s infamous 16th hole, he made a controversial exit.

That was back in 2010, when he got booed for missing a 7-foot birdie putt. The Englishman also was taunted with chants of “USA.” Poulter left the green scratching his nose with a finger fully extended from the middle of his hand, a digit normally used to deliver a not-so friendly message. Poulter later said he was merely scratching his nose and reserves the right to do so with any finger he pleases.

Poulter didn’t return to the Waste Management Phoenix Open last year.

Phil Mickelson

Sonoran scorch – Phil Mickelson

With Mickelson off to a sluggish start, he will be scrutinized in Scottsdale to see if he’s just working off some rust, or if this is a downward spiral. He has now slipped to No. 16 in the world rankings.

After shooting 74 to open the season at the Humana Challenge, Mickelson scrambled to make the cut, eventually tying for 49th. Last week, he opened with a 77 at the Farmers Insurance Open, but his second-round rally wasn’t good enough. He missed the cut. Another poor showing will inspire a lot more questions.

Lefty’s beloved in the Phoenix area, where he attended Arizona State. He’s a two-time winner of the Phoenix Open with nine top-10 finishes.

Kyle Stanley

San Diego sunburn – Kyle Stanley

A week after collapsing at the end of the Farmers Insurance Open, Stanley gets right back on the horse. He’s teeing it up at TPC Scottsdale, where he’ll be looking to build on what he did for 71 holes at Torrey Pines.

Stanley was quite emotional after the loss Sunday, a tough defeat to take when his first PGA Tour victory seemed in hand. A lot of us will be curious to see how he responds. Memories of the triple-bogey finish will linger until he trumps it with a better finish. The quicker he can do that, the better.

Stanley is making his first start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Peter Uihlein

Klieg light heat – Peter Uihlein

The 2010 U.S. Amateur champ and former No. 1 amateur in the world is playing the Qatar Masters on a special invite, his first European Tour start as a professional. Given Uihlein has taken such an unconventional route to the start of his pro career – a top American on the European Challenge Tour – a lot of other young Americans will be watching how he fares, how the foreign road meets his feet. Uihlein finished 12th in his Challenge Tour debut last week at the Gujarat Kensville Challenge.

Lexi Thompson

Aussie heat wave – Lexi Thompson

Thompson is still just 16, but the expectations are high for the promising young American pro as she prepares to begin her rookie LPGA season.

Though Thompson won’t make her first LPGA start as a tour member until next week’s ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne, she is making her 2012 debut at this week’s Gold Coast RACV Australian Ladies Masters in Queensland. Thompson won the Navistar LPGA Classic in September, then won the Dubai Ladies Masters on the Ladies European Tour in December. The victories have ramped up excitement around the young star.

The Australian Ladies Masters is co-sanctioned by the LET and features some top players. Kraft Nabisco champ Stacy Lewis and Christina Kim are among Americans in the field. Katherine Hull leads the Aussie contingent. European Solheim Cup players Melissa Reid, Laura Davies, Caroline Hedwall and Christel Boeljon also are scheduled to play.