Inside Comments: Steve Turcotte

Even without the thousands of fans, the 16th at TPC Scottsdale is a pressure shot

You have certainly heard about the Waste Management Phoenix Open. You have heard about the huge crowds, the party-like atmosphere throughout the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course, the 16,000-plus fans on the par-3 16th hole . . . this is more than just a golf tournament. It’s a week-long party where the golf happens to get in the way.

If you have seen the course on television, that is one thing. It’s kind of like seeing Augusta National on television but you really don’t realize how hilly the place is until you’ve been there. Same thing in Phoenix. Sure, you see the fans and the tents – but if you get a chance to play the course when it is all set up – that’s another thing.

At the Waste Management Phoenix Open media day, it was a chance to play and see the course with all the bells and whistles. And these bells and whistles are big.

There are hospitality tents everywhere. The 16th hole must be seen to be believe from the tee box with the thousands of seats and suites lining both sides of the hole.

At the media day, our group was lucky enough to start on the 17th hole, a drivable par-4 (OK, for some but not for me) and we knew what hole we would be finishing up on. The timing couldn’t have been better.

The tournament is in its 85th year and is the fifth oldest on the PGA Tour. Remember the days where Tiger Woods played and had fans help him move a huge boulder and he played the 16th hole without all the grandstands. This is a tournament that was named the 2019 tournament of the year by the PGA Tour and a tournament which is close to giving $160 million to charity through the years. The Thunderbirds are the group which operates the tournament and every year they seem to up the ante.

This year new hospitality areas have been added, some areas have been increased and Waste Management is signed on to be the title sponsor for years.

But what sets this tournament apart from every other on the PGA Tour schedule is the atmosphere and the work with charity. Mention the tournament to any golfer, and the first thing they think of is the 16th hole.

We had a chance to play it where the professionals do. On the surface is a 160-yard par-3 with a bunker left and a seemingly fairly easy shot. During tournament week, it’s a different animal with the constant noise, cheering for good shots and boos for bad shots. On this day, I hit a weak shot short right. And there was no one watching. Highly disappointing. My playing partner John Dunn nearly knocked it in the hole for an ace. After some fake crowd cheers, he made the short putt for birdie.

Even without the fans, this was a treat to see the course all dressed up for tournament week.

Steve Turcotte is editor of Inside Golf. He can be reached at sdturcotte@comcast.net.