Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

Inside the Ropes: Phoenix Open brings football atmosphere to golf

The SportsXchange

This is Super Bowl week, and on the PGA Tour, that means stadium golf.

It happens at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, billed as "The Greatest Show on Grass," where the par-3, 162-yard 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale is the closest the PGA Tour will ever get to noisy CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Corporate boxes and bleachers encircle the hole, with a capacity of about 15,000 fans, many of them well-hydrated students from Arizona State and other nearby colleges. There are two videoboards, two scoreboards, and CBS covers every shot with eight cameras.

The hole is nicknamed "The Coliseum," and the players enter the cauldron through a tunnel that leads to the tee box.

"It reminds me of when I go to Fenway Park," said Keegan Bradley, who grew up as a fan of the Boston Red Sox in New England. "There's always like a murmur. There's always a little ambient noise."

That's before the players even get to the hole, and when they do arrive, the pressure is on.

When a player hits the green, especially if he is close to the hole, the crowd roars its approval with a decibel-raising cheer.

Miss the putting surface and the boos, and other things including beer bottles, rain down. Heckling follows the unfortunate golfer all the way to his ball, where he can redeem himself with the fickle fans by hitting the next one close.

No one is immune, not even ASU grad and local favorite Phil Mickelson, the defending champion.

Justin Leonard was so upset with the reaction he got from a poor tee shot that he flipped off the crowd, which instantly turned around many of the fans, who gave him a big cheer.

"It's like hitting a shot in the Rose Bowl," Tom Lehman said several years ago. "It's unlike any place we ever go on tour. You want to give the crowd something to cheer about, and sometimes you try too hard.

"You can really enjoy it if you put yourself in the mind-set where you take the energy from the crowd and run with it. The downside, though, is the second you make contact, they're yelling, 'Go in, go in,' even though the ball is heading for the pot bunker."

There have been eight holes-in-one on the 16th hole in tournament history, the last one by Jarrod Lyle of Australia during the second round in 2011.

However, the defining moment at No. 16 and perhaps in tournament history came when Tiger Woods brought down the house with an ace that can be seen in several versions on YouTube.

"We had flying debris coming in after I made it, and I think I was the first person ever to raise the roof for a shot on the PGA Tour," Woods said of the gesture he made to encourage the fans for more.

"It was so loud. We couldn't have had it any more loud than that because obviously the Super Bowl was that weekend. Everyone was coming out there."

Robert Garrigus was a 19-year-old wannabe golf pro standing outside the ropes in the crowd behind the tee that day, with a bird's-eye view of Woods' famous shot. That day, Garrigus took a shot of his own.

"I was standing two people behind the ropes, and, I don't know, I might have been the first guy to throw a beer," said Garrigus, who ultimately made his way onto the PGA Tour, winning the 2010 Children's Miracle Network Classic for his only victory on the circuit. This week, he is in the Phoenix Open field for the sixth time.

"That was pretty cool. That made me ... if I didn't want to be a professional golfer right there, I wasn't going to be one."

Woods' ace came late in the day, and the fans must have been in a hurry to get to the nearby Bird's Nest, where the party that is the Phoenix Open carries on far into the night.

Woods remembers what happened next almost as much as the shot.

"It was actually pretty funny, because after I holed out, everyone had already seen what they wanted to see, they were yelling, screaming, throwing beer, and everyone just left," said Woods, whose best finish in three appearances at TPC Scottsdale was solo third in 1999.

"This whole procession of just thousands of people walking out. As I'm playing 17, everyone is just walking by. It was like, 'We saw what we wanted to see, we're outta here.'"

Woods has been outta there since 2001, tying for fifth the last time he played in Phoenix, when a fan threw an orange onto the 16th green and distracted him while he was putting.

That came two years after a man who was heckling Woods from the gallery was wrestled to the ground by security guards, who discovered that the guy had a gun in his backpack.

Even without Tiger, the fans keep coming to the tournament, an average of about 500,000 every year, with the record of 538,356 set in 2008. The one-day mark of 179,022 fans was set in the third round last year.

And many of the pros, if not Woods, wouldn't miss it.

Said Garrigus: "That's our little Super Bowl in there, so to speak, and it's just fun."
Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Football
View Comments (1)