“The Greatest Show on Grass” could be biggest ever in Scottsdale!

The stadium set up for No. 16 at TPC Scottsdale

By Wil Barnes

The mass-attended, zany, crazy, loud, part-time golf event, big-time party is set to explode this week in Scottsdale at the annual Waste Management Phoenix Open. It’s also Super Bowl week featuring the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots playing about 45 minutes away in Glendale, so the atmosphere will be especially amped up.

“I think it will be the biggest sporting weekend of the year,” said Jim “Bones” McKay, caddie for Phil Mickelson and a veteran of over 20 of these shindigs.

Eighteen years ago, I was lucky to be working for another magazine doing a story on the rowdy and exciting par-3 16th hole, when after about three hours, none other than the then-young sensation Tiger Woods arrived at the tee. The crowd behind us was well lubricated and had been hurling some hilarious commentary for certain players. The skyboxes were not totally encompassing like the setup at the hole is today. After Omar Uresti hit first and stuffed it to about two feet, best shot of the day, Tiger stepped up and set the place in true hysteria with his hole-in-one. It is, by all accounts, the loudest shot ever heard in golf. Personally, I was pelted with beer cans, water bottles, cigar stubs and just about anything that was loose.  That really accelerated that hole to enter a new stratosphere.

“It is the most unique experience we have on Tour,” said veteran Charles Howell III.  “I can’t see how it can be any bigger or more amped up than last year,” Howell III said after his final round at the Humana.  ”I don’t think the 16th can get any bigger. I mean it’s holy cow big. The Thunderbird (tournament volunteer) on the tee box that is asking for quiet is literally wasting his breath.”

Another player who loves the tournament is Charlie Hoffman, who happens to represent the title sponsor Waste Management. “Well, I don’t think it can be any crazier than a Super Bowl weekend and the Phoenix Open at the same time,” he said. “There will all the celebrities in town for the game and then you add Tiger’s playing. I hope Tiger plays well and gets the crowd amped up even more.”

As for memories of No. 16,  one in particular comes to mind for Hoffman. “One year I remember out threesome all teed off together,” he said. “Now, I don’t know if that is against the rules, but we did it.”

And of course there is the after party each night at the famed Bird’s Nest, which will kick off Wednesday night with Kid Rock and it’s already sold out (complete list of shows available at wmphoenixopen.com). There are reports that Saturday tickets are also sold out and that just never happens. They’ve had as many as 190,000 reportedly on the course for a Saturday, so a sellout would be historic. Then again, Tiger, the man that moves the needle like no one else, is returning to the scene for the first time since 2001, so attendance records are sure to be broken. With Phil, Rickie, and Bubba joining Tiger and the rest of the field, the scalper price on a Greenskeeper or 16th hole skybox badge will be especially exorbitant, considering tickets are already sold out well in advance.

It’s definitely a show and when you figure that hordes of Seahawks and Pats fans will be in town for the big show and to party like 2015, the “Greatest Show on grass” is sure to be colorful once again and live up to all the hype. “I think that when you consider that Open draws more than the Super Bowl, I think it will one of the biggest sporting events of the year,” reiterated Hoffman. After just leaving the Humana Challenge, an event that has lost some of its luster and popularity even with former President Clinton’s support, the week in Scottsdale will certainly have plenty to write about, if you’re able to remember it all.

Random thoughts:

*What will Phil do? Who knows? The 2013 Open champion has one remaining blemish on an otherwise stellar resume, the lack of a U.S. Open trophy. He’ll get his chance in Washington in June on a links course not familiar to most, Chambers Bay. No matter how you feel about Phil, admit you would like to see the five-time bridesmaid hoist that trophy on Fathers Day.

*2015 means that Open Championship returns to the home of golf, St. Andrews in Scotland, where Tom Watson will say farewell to the oldest championship in golf, one he has won five times. The Scots will say farewell to him. Funny, I thought the Scots already did that last September in Perthshire at the Ryder Cup?

*Speaking of the Ryder Cup, the PGA of America has assembled a task force to try to remedy the regular U.S. team failures in the biennial event. Included on the task force are current players Woods, Mickelson and Fowler. The task force doesn’t need to worry about defeat this year – they don’t play until 2016 in Minnesota. Just pick Freddie Couples as captain and get it over with.

*After speaking with a number of caddies over the Humana weekend, there is certainly plenty of talk about the flimsy story Robert Allenby reported about what happened to him in Waikiki over the weekend of the Sony Open. He told authorities in Honolulu that he was abducted, beaten and left in a ditch, and had injuries to prove it, including a swollen left eye.  “He was still wearing his Rolex watch, so that’s a little sketchy,” said one veteran looper. “His injuries look like he just fell down.”


Related Articles

Stay Connected


Latest Articles