The golf course is a place to find peace and serenity. Golfers of all levels look to the sport for its personal and athletic challenges. One place on the links where this description is far off the beaten path is the Phoenix Open.
Professional golfers must deal with cheering and yelling fans at the par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. The hole has been dubbed "The Stadium" due to the vast number of fans lining the fairway from tee to green. Over the years, tournament officials have expanded the seating arrangements to incorporate skyboxes, multi-layer bleachers and security to ensure the safety of golfers and their caddies. One fan favorite that no longer happens on the par 3 measuring 162 yards is caddy races. The PGA Tour stopped the races due to safety concerns.
In its 79th year, the Phoenix Open is one of the oldest- running events on tour. Up until the past 17 years or so, all the top players had Phoenix on their schedule. Lately, there has been competition from events in the Middle East. Phil Mickelson has played in the tournament 26 times with three winners trophies in his trophy case. Mickelson set a scoring record of 28-under par in 2013 for his third win at the tournament.
Officials and golfers have made the hole into one of the most iconic on the PGA Tour. This year, the hole has 200 skyboxes being sold for $46,000 each, seating for more than 18,000, two video boards, two scoreboards and eight cameras showing all the angles on the hole. The drunken crowds have been sobered by stricter rules on alcohol sales. It's still the rowdiest hole in the game, but you're less likely to see drunk frat boys screaming in a player's backswing or crazies like the gun-toting heckler who bullied Tiger Woods at the '99 tournament
Many players have made their mark on the hole in various ways. In 1997, Woods raised the roof by recording an ace on the hole using a 9 iron (his is one of eight holes-in-one at the hole since the tournament was moved to Scottsdale in 1983), Bob Tway recording the highest stroke count on the hole with a seven, Bryce Molder sinking the longest putt at 55 feet and Kenny Perry has played the hole 83 times and is 15-under in relation to par for his career on the hole.
Not all par-3 holes are venues to celebrate in a "Gangnam Style" dance. One sacred hole is Augusta National's 12th hole. Nor would the rank-and-file savor a similar performance around, say, Bay Hill's 17th hole a 221-yard par 3 ringed by water and sand.
Golf fans may walk outside the ropes at other tournaments and major events in a deliberate manor, but the 16th hole at the Phoenix Open is meant to be enjoyed by those who know how to celebrate. This is a place where lesser-pedigreed players can make their career with a win and raise the roof with fans at "The Stadium" hole of golf.
Contact Eddie Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org