SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – I’m going to be hanging out with 15,000 of my closest friends at TPC Scottsdale’s 16th hole this week.
Unlike everyone else, I’ll actually be working.
For all those who can’t make it to the party, I’ll bring the party to you via my Live Blog, which will be available on GolfChannel.com and the Golf Channel phone app on Thursday and Friday, coinciding with the broadcast window from 4-7 p.m. ET.
I’ve been camped out on the 16th for the first few rounds during each of the past five or six editions of this tournament and it never fails to entertain. One main reason is Mike Leonard, whom I’ve gotten to know over the years as the ringleader of the group that sets up in the bleachers just to the left of the entrance to the tee box.
Leonard has been attending the festivities on 16 since tagging along with his older brother in 2000. Three years later, he leaned on Google and Wikipedia to create “Leonard’s List” – a player factsheet that he hands out to fellow fans, providing them with fodder for serenading purposes throughout the tournament.
“It’s tradition to go and see people,” Leonard told me from his home in Minnesota prior to flying here for the event. “The players and the fans look forward to it. Some of these new guys know the history of it. And it’s evolved and changed a lot – really since Tiger Woods’ hole-in-one, everyone knows about it.
“People we’re not necessarily even friends with, they’ll show up year after year. It’s like Homecoming – and the players enjoy it. They’ll put on some jersey or do a dance or hand out hats. They have fun and embrace it.”
Bubba Watson is among those who not only enjoys the atmosphere, but makes special plans for the fans. Through social media this week, he is asking for suggestions on how to enter into the arena and what to hand out to the crowd.
“Obviously more and more people are getting involved in it, and I think as media attention, social media attention grows, more people are coming,” he explained. “A few years ago, the media and social media wasn't there, and so now it's grown so it's getting bigger, and I think it's great for one time a year. If it was every week, it wouldn't be as cool; it would be played out. Yeah, so it's nice.”