TPC Scottsdale's 16th: 'There is nothing like it'
January 29, 2014
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- TPC Scottsdale's 16th hole has a reputation as the most raucous hole in golf. (Getty)
Patrick Reed's first visit to the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale this week was illuminating, although hardly intimidating. At least, not yet.
"There were an awful lot of green seats out there," Reed said on Tuesday. "But there weren't that many people this morning when I played. It was pretty early.
"But I can just see how crazy and fun that hole will be."
It was, after all, just a practice round. The 20,000 fans, give or take a few, who will turn this stadium of a par 3 into golf's biggest fraternity party are saving their best stuff until the tournament begins and the TV cameras switch on.
Reed, who has won two of the last nine PGA TOUR events he's played, including his most recent start at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, is one of a dozen pledges this week. He's making his Waste Management Phoenix Open debut and his initiation begins on Thursday.
"I can't wait to hear how the crowd reacts," Reed said. "My swing coach Kevin Kirk told me it's the closest thing I'll ever have to feeling like I'm playing in the NFL when I walk through that tunnel. I am really looking forward to it."
The infamous 16th, which is the centerpiece of an exciting risk-reward finishing stretch that includes the driveable 17th and the demanding 18th, measures a relatively innocuous 162 yards and generally requires a well-played 8- or 9-iron. Miss the green and endure the boos. Hit it close and revel in the cheers.
Make an ace, like Tiger Woods did in 1997, and the ground positively rumbles.
"That raised the roof," said Reed, who was just 6 years old at the time but has watched the replays on PGATOUR.COM and YouTube.
Reed says he's prepared for the noise, though. After all, he practices with his headphones on listening to Radio Active and "The Man" by Aloe Blacc -- which also happens to be the song 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett are playing in those "Hear What You Want" commercials.
The fraternity of fans who clammor to get a spot in the massive bleachers -- clad in polo shirts instead of togas, thank goodness -- pour over the PGA TOUR media guide and search the Internet for nuggets they can use to egg each player on. They serenade birthday boys and sing alma maters.
And the TOUR players respond in kind. Who can forget that "Golf Boys" duet featuring Bubba Watson and Ben Crane? Or James Hahn celebrating with his best Gangnam-style dance after his ball landed safely on the green?
Padraig Harrington came to TPC Scottsdale for the first time a year ago precisely because he wanted to experience the tournament and the 16th hole. The affable Irishman "loved it" and he's back again this week armed with replica Super Bowl footballs made by his sponsor, Wilson.
The footballs he kicked -- "I'm smart enough to not throw it," Harrington said -- into the crowd that Saturday last year were a first.
"I grew up as a goal keeper so I can kick a ball, but I'd never kicked an oval ball, not a rugby ball or American football, before that day," he said. "So I was thinking about it a little bit and I was happy that I didn't embarrass myself, let's say."
Turns out, Harrington found himself in the final group on Sunday, trying to deny Phil Mickelson that wire-to-wire victory. He came armed with footballs once again but the three-time major champion didn't want to do anything stupid. After all, a tournament was on the line.
"My intention was, yes, I'm going to kick the ball, but ... you don't pull a hamstring, don't do anything like that," he recalled. "... But the minute I got the ball, I kicked it as hard as I could. I hooved it. I just couldn't resist. It's actually quite exciting down there on 16.
"As much as I was trying to be calm and collected, just tap the balls up there, not with the crowd cheering, I have to give it a big punt. That was it."
Harrington's fellow Ryder Cupper, Lee Westwood, is following in the Irishman's footsteps this year and playing the popular TOUR stop for the first time. The headquarters of his sponsor, Ping, are in Phoenix, and the Brit was well aware of the WM Phoenix Open's reputation. So it seemed like a good opportunity to do something new.
"I want to experience that tournament, play the 16th hole and stuff like that," Westwood explained.
Does Harrington have any advice for the newbie? He likens the atmosphere at the 16th hole to a Ryder Cup but says it's hard to put into words.
"You have to go through it rather than describe it to people," Harrington said. "For golf, there is nothing like it."