Harrington, Fisher ready for first experience at the rowdy par-3 16th

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Padraig Harrington: "I'm thinking about pulling a shirt over my head and running down to the green if I hole out."
January 30, 2013
Helen Ross,

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Padraig Harrington and Ross Fisher have never played in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but they've watched the tournament on TV. So the two know what's in store this week when each makes his debut at TPC Scottsdale.

The atmosphere will be electric, not unlike the 2010 Ryder Cup, where Harrington and Fisher teamed for a pair of wins but without the suffocating pressure. The fans will be lubricated and loud, frisky as well as funny and they won't cut the two any slack, either.

Harrington is looking forward to it all. He likes the identity the tournament, which attracts more than 500,000 fans each year, has created for itself and the way the fans are celebrated.

"It's a great thing when you see golf tournaments that they get a little niche,' Harrington said. "... Obviously the Waste Management Phoenix Open has done that with their spectators. They created a completely unique event in golf, and that's a great thing. So that's why I'm here, because of that."

Fisher, who is playing his first year as a PGA TOUR member, agreed. He's among 24 players who are competing at TPC Scottsdale for the first time.

"It always looked like an amazing tournament to come play in," said the Englishman, who tied for 21st on Monday at the Farmers Insurance Open. "I'd only played the course a couple of times on the video game, so yesterday was my first real look at it. ... Hopefully this place will inspire me."

The 16th hole, a 162-yard par 3 completely surrounded by massive grandstands, is obviously the inspiration for the fans in attendance. They research the PGA TOUR media guide and comb the Internet for interesting tidbits to greet each player when he steps to the tee. And the players respond in kind.

Now you probably won't see Harrington turning one of the most famous holes in the game into a karaoke parlor like two of the "Golf Boys," Ben Crane and Bubba Watson, did last year. Or wearing a cheesehead hat like Mark Wilson did the year his Green Bay Packers were in the Super Bowl and he ended up winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

But Harrington plans to join in the fun somehow -- he's just not letting the secret out right now. And he likes the fact that fans are asked to wear green, to complement Waste Management's recycling initiative, although he prefers to think the reason is for the "Irish fellas," Harrington said.

And as for Saturday?

"I'm thinking about pulling a shirt over my head and running down to the green if I hole out," Harrington said. "That's a soccer celebration, and with my six-pack and everything, it would look perfect."

Harrington then paused to reconsider.  

"All I remember is Henrik Stenson got grief for his physique when he obviously stripped down to his boxer shorts (to hit a shot out of the water at Doral), so I now realize no professional golfer should ever do that again," he said. "If he's getting grief, the rest of us are in a lot of trouble."

After the Monday finish at Torrey Pines, Fisher said he didn't play his practice round until late Tuesday so the 16th hole was very tame. He said he was sure there would be "goosebumps on the back of your neck" when he tees it up there for the first time in competition.

And like Harrington, Fisher he has thought ahead to the weekend when he runs out of the tunnel to the cheers and jeers of the crowd.

"I can't give away anything," Fisher said with a smile. "It's top secret. We've got a few goodies to throw away to the fans. Fingers-crossed I play well and make it through to Saturday. Chuck 'em into the bleachers, as you guys call it, on 16 and hopefully they'll appreciate it."

While the Waste Management Phoenix Open is the third straight for Fisher, the tournament is the first of four in a row that Harrington will play. The Irishman particularly likes the next two events -- the Northern Trust Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach National -- and he has often wished he had another tournament under his belt.

"This year it was an opportunity, and if I played in Dubai, and I was considering playing in Dubai, it was a 20-hour flight to get into AT&T," said Harrington, who won the team portion of the event last year with his billionaire partner, J.P. McManus. "As I'm defending in the pro-am in the AT&T, I felt a 20-hour flight was not a great idea."

The three-time major champion said TPC Scottsdale isn't your typical desert course in that there are a surprising number of trees but the cactus is still an issue when balls veer off the fairway. But he said this course, as well as others like the one in Dubai where the European Tour is playing this week, are great places for players to work on their games.

"I like golf," Harrington said. "To be honest, if they were playing for $6 million out there on a runway out there at the airport, I'd still tee it up. But ...   It's amazing how much easier it is to hit golf balls here than even a nice day at home at the moment. ... The ball just flies better. It just flies easier.

"And at this time of the year, it's ideal for all the players. ... These are perfect golf courses to come to at this time of the year when you're trying to get your game in shape for the year, and the bonus is if you play well, you're playing in a big event."