5 Things: Ready for some TPC Scottsdale rowdiness?
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - It's almost here: "The Greatest Show on Grass." Last year a record 173,210 spectators packed TPC Scottsdale on Saturday for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Rumor has it some of them were drinking a cold beverage or three. The 16th hole is golf's "most hollered ground," where crowd capacity - on this one hole - exceeds 20,000. It will be a wild scene.
Here are 5 Things to expect:
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1. SWEET 16? They enter through the tunnel to the 16th hole like gladiators entering the Colosseum.
“They open the gates and here come the slaves,” says Gary McCord, who has had a ringside seat for years as CBS Sports’ anchor of the hole. “It’s like the old medieval taunting days.”
The par-3, 162-yarder is unlike anything else in golf, a hole that last year became totally enclosed with skybox suites and handles 20,000 riotous fans.
They chant. They cheer. They boo. Relentlessly.
"All the people just to the left side there off the tee have chants. They're singing happy birthday; they're doing chants from colleges," said Bubba Watson.
Expect a rollicking good time. We'll have more on the madness at 16 as the week progresses.
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2. DON'T FORGET ME! The 16th hole gets the bulk of the attention for obvious reasons, but don't forget No. 17. It is a 332-yard drivable par-4, where anything from an ace - Andrew Magee has been there, done that - to a snowman can happen.
Look no further than last year for how this sneaky little hole can factor in the outcome of the tournament. Kyle Stanley was more than happy to re-live the good vibes of his victory here last season. He recalled the sand wedge he played from under a cactus to the right of the short hole that helped him secure the title.
"You know if you gave me a bucket of balls and took me back to that spot, I'm not sure I could hit one that good," he said. "It was probably one of the better recovery shots I've ever hit."
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3. SLUMP BREAKER? Kyle Stanley can hardly believe that a year has passed since he shrugged off the disappointment of losing a seven-stroke lead at Torrey Pines and rallied from eight strokes behind on Sunday at TPC Scottsdale to notch his first Tour title.
Before long, he was being pronounced a rising star. Expectations soared, and Stanley admits he didn't handle it well.
"I think I put a lot of self-imposed pressure on myself to continue that type of play, and yeah, it kind of got me in a tough spot," he said.
Stanley also conceded his game hasn't been sharp of late. In fact, he hasn't recorded a top-10 since his victory a year ago and is coming off consecutive missed cuts. Stanley downplayed talk that his ball striking and the switch to Nike equipment are to blame for his recent struggles. The real culprit? Putting.
"I think it's more of a mental thing," Stanley said, and he's not too concerned that his game will turn the corner soon.
"I don't think a little adversity ever really hurt anybody," he said. "I think I'll be tougher when this is all said and done."
After this week, Stanley said he is planning to take an extended "off-season," of anywhere from three to five weeks. "I didn't really have one," said Stanley, who played in Malaysia, China and Australia late last season.
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4. EYE ON THE PRIZE: Padraig Harrington loves to tinker with his game.
"It's what gets me out of bed," Harrington said. "Every year, I'll find something between now and the end of the season to change during the off-season. . . . That's just who I am. I'll keep evolving and try to find something new."
The latest: consulting a team of eye specialists to help with his loss of confidence in his ability to read greens. Harrington, who said he has 20/20 vision thanks to four laser surgeries in the past, showed up here with glasses - two separate pairs - that he said reduces eye fatigue.
"I'm perfectly fine in terms of what I can see," Harrington said. "But certainly I didn't putt very well last year, and I needed to do something about it. So far, so good."
Harrington, who is making his first appearance here, said he most likely wouldn't wear the glasses during competition.
"Well, I wore this pair for about two hours at Durban before they got the sack, and I have another pair this week that I've been wearing, and they've managed all the way through my practice round (Tuesday) up until I started hitting wedges on the range, and I could have been sowing potatoes after a while in the divots I was taking," he said. "I don't know if these glasses will make it."
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5. WHERE'S VIJAY? Vijay Singh was a no-show at TPC Scottsdale again on Wednesday. He issued a statement that morning expressing "shock" that the deer antler spray he admitted using in a Sports Illustrated article published this week included a banned substance. Singh's admission of use was the talk of the tournament. Among those who voiced their disapproval was Bubba Watson.
"It's sad that people do stuff like that," Watson said. "I would never put something named that in my body."
Singh is scheduled to tee off at 12:25 p.m. local time Thursday with Ryan Moore and Carl Pettersson. It will be interesting to see whether Singh plays or withdraws from the tournament and what the response will be from fans when he arrives at the 16th hole. Stay tuned.