There’s nothing in golf that compares to the legendary 16th hole at the Phoenix Open. With the hole entirely enclosed by grandstands, it feels like you’re in a real stadium rather than a golf tournament. No. 16 is the only hole all year where heckling and loud cheering are not only acceptable, it’s expected. The atmosphere makes it seem like you’re at a football or baseball game — all the uptight, conservative customs synonymous to golf are thrown out the door. What’s most impressive is that the drunken yahoos in the stands actually do extensive research for material to use for their taunts at the players (and sometimes even their caddies).
Earlier this week, I caught up with several players for their thoughts on No. 16. The response? They love it. In fact, they’d like to see more of it in golf.
First, let’s go to Robert Garrigus:
I live for it. It’s our Super Bowl. It’s so much fun. I could care less about the heckling. I think it’s great. I really do (think there should be more of this in golf). If we have a hole like this every week, a lot more people would come. Some of the guys who get fussy about it — they can’t handle the pressure. I think it’s awesome.
Next, Kevin Streelman, who lives just down the street at Grayhawk, has figured out how to win the crowd’s favor:
I love the 16th hole. I bribe them. Lemonhead is one of my sponsors, so I bring a bunch of Lemonhead candy and throw it up to (the fans). As soon as I walk through, they start chanting “Lemonheads” and “Candyman.” (The fans) have been nice to me…I think (the 16th) is fantastic for golf. It’d be great to see more of it.
Rookie Daniel Summerhays has yet to experience the 16th, but of course, knows what he’s in for:
I think it’s a great atmosphere and unique to golf. We’re a sport and it’s an entertainment thing, and there’s no better stage than No. 16 (at TPC Scottsdale) for that. The heart rate may go up a little more, but I think it’ll be great. I’m looking forward to walking underneath the grandstand and coming out (to the tee) and having all eyes are you. I’m excited for it. I’m pretty relaxed about the noise. I’ve taken a lot of catcalls in my day (smiling), so I’ll be ready for it.
Jamie Lovemark, another rookie, thinks the 16th makes golf a more interactive sport, like football:
It’s fun and different, so that’s cool. I’m looking forward to seeing what they say (to me) and the background research they’ve done. At the end of the day we’re still playing golf.
I always wished at golf tournaments on each hole they’d have a sound stereo. I wish I could listen to an iPod during the round. I wish the players wouldn’t freak out when they have someone walking (when they’re about to hit). I wish we could have more fun.
I’d like to see a song played for each guy when he’s announced on the first tee, like what they do at baseball games. You know, a theme song. Which would Jamie pick? “That’s a tough one,” he said. “It has to be upbeat…probably Juelz Santana’s The Second Coming.”
Update: Geoff Ogilvy talked about No. 16 in his press conference on Wednesday:
Yeah, 16 is always fun. You just want to give them what they’ve been waiting for. You just want to hit a decent shot. It’s the funnest hole of the year when you make birdie or hit a good shot and it’s the least fun hole of the year if you hit a bad shot or make bogey. They’re pretty ruthless when they get lubricated towards the end of the day, especially Friday and Saturday are the two big days, I think. It’s a fun — as I said, it’s the funnest hole of the year when you play it well, and you just want to play it well not only to have — you want to make birdie for the tournament, but it’s just a fun hole to make birdie on because of the way they react. If you don’t make birdie you just want to make a very nondescript middle-of-the-green, two-putt par. You don’t want to like — especially don’t want to miss the green. They boo. They wind you up all the way up the hole if you’ve guy a bunker shot or if you’ve got a tricky little shot, so it’s best to not stand out if you’re not going to make birdie, you know what I mean?