When I showed up at TPC Scottsdale on Tuesday, I was greeted by my pal from the Thunderbirds (the
secret society charity group that hosts the Phoenix Open) in a golf cart with another T-bird (door-to-door service! — like I’ve said, they don’t mess around). I barely had time to drop off my computer and check in the media center before I was whisked away for a tour of the relocated Greenskeeper, one of the rowdiest and drunkest party areas — you pay $3,100 for four badges to the Greenskeeper tent, where it’s open bar and complimentary food — at the “Greatest Show on Grass,” aka, the wildest lawn party masquerading as a pro golf tournament.
I didn’t quite understand the excitement. I mean, I remember having fun as the only sober person seeing a lot of stilettos and double Ds and watching a lot of drunk people that were probably there all week and never saw a golf shot (and being kinda jealous I couldn’t take advantage of the open bar). Dan was explaining they changed the locale of the Greenskeeper, but it didn’t quite process until I saw and recalled the shenanigans and fine reputation of the hot spot.
In previous years the Greenskeeper was kind of near the 10th tee, but you wouldn’t know you were at a golf course. And I don’t think most of the patrons did. Well, this year, the Thunderbirds decided to change things up and move it to the grassy lawn near 17th green and the 18th hole. “This exciting new and larger location is sure to be a big hit,” says the website.
It may not be as big of a hit for some players who are sensitive to noise because it’s going to be loud and rowdy, especially Friday and Saturday. Players think they’ve past the test (or failed) and they’re in the clear once they get done with 16, but not this year! The guys will be able to hear the crowd as they’re hitting their approach shots into 17 and as they’re putting. The 18th tee should be interesting, as well, but there’s some more distance between the drunks and the golfers in that case. Regardless, if you’re a player that gets nervous and flips out over noise, then you better get over it, like yesterday. It might be a tad nerve-wracking for the guys in contention on Sunday (coughKFScough). You better have a ten-shot lead going into that last stretch of three holes or grow some thicker skin and just deal with it.
Now 17 and 18 probably won’t be anything remotely comparable to the shenanigans on 16, but I’ll guarantee it’ll be filled with drunks laughing and talking loudly and the music blaring over the speakers. And there’s nothing the Tour and/or the players can do about it if they’re not happy with the set up and noise control. (You should have seen the grim look on the Tour security officials on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the T-birds are cracking up and predicting when they’ll be receiving angry phone calls.)
There’s nothing even comparable to the “Stadium hole,” the par-3 16th, at any other stop on the PGA Tour or in golf. It’d be awesome if there were something like that at every event, but I don’t know if some venues can draw enough people. As its well known, the Phoenix Open boasts the highest attendance count of any tournament. I’m betting they’ve already had more people this week than some events have the entire week.
The fans on the 16th are classic and usually do their research, finding the most random facts about players to taunt and heckle them with. It’s all in good fun, though. Well, usually. It depends on how you react. If you embrace the crowd and hit good golf shots, they’ll love you and be nice to you but if you’re a jerk, then good luck. And if you’re a jerk who is also playing badly, then you’re screwed. Actually, they boo everyone who misses the green, so don’t miss it. I have to admit — I’m curious what kind of reception Kyle Stanley is going to get, but I don’t think the crowd will be too sympathetic. I’m sure the word “choke” will be thrown around. Ouchie.
“A little bit excited, a little bit nervous,” said Keegan Bradley, who is playing in his first WM Phoenix Open, on Wednesday. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s more intense than I thought it would be. It’s like hitting a shot in Fenway Park, basically.
“I’ve heard it can be intense and gruesome. Hopefully I’ll hit a good shot and tap in for birdie, so I don’t have to deal with it.”
Good luck with that.
Meanwhile, Scott Stallings, also making his first start, was much more enthusiastic about the 16th hole experience.
“It’s awesome,” said Stallings on Wednesday. “It’s the best hole on Tour. I like when people get fired up. Every tournament should have a hole like it. It felt like 18 at Greenbrier (where I won my first Tour event last season) on steroids. The noise doesn’t bother me. It fires me up.
It was only Wednesday, but there was an event that was part of the pro-am/charity festivities called “Shot at Glory,” where they had the music booming and the crowd cheering and booing like it was a basketball or baseball game. Which was awesome. I took a few videos. Because I felt like I needed to share what a typical Wednesday was like at the Phoenix Open.
“Oh yeah, he won ‘Dancing With the Stars!'” …”Ooooh, so that’s where I know him from!” I was joking. I’m familiar with Emmitt Smith, but didn’t know he was a DWTS champ.
Oh, the “Shot at Glory” event (I think there were like 15 contestants and if you make an ace, you win a million dollars, but the odds are obviously slim to none) opened with three Blackhawk helicopters circling above the Stadium hole and one eventually landed at the nearby Greyhawk course. That wasn’t all, though. Then came guys who jumped out of them in parachutes, wearing American flags.
Overheard: T-bird #1: “What are they bringing?!?” T-bird #2: “The weeeeed!”
You can’t make this stuff up.
There was also a bald eagle flying around near the green. Finally, the “opening ceremony” closed with some fireworks. Just a regular Wednesday.
I’m pumped for the tourney to begin and to hear the reaction from the players after they experience playing with the Greenskeeper within an earshot. It shouldn’t be too packed until Friday or Saturday. There will probably only be 75,000 people on the premises on Thursday, so expect a few thousand in the Greenskeeper tent.
One last thing: Download the iPhone app. As you may know, caddie races are a tradition at the Stadium hole. Well, the app has a virtual game and you can place bets on the winner via the app. I feel like it’s Christmas!