Commentary

Sobel's Blog -- Round 1 of the FBR Open

Updated: January 29, 2009, 10:13 PM ET
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

5:30 p.m. MT: As the bleachers here at 16 start to filter out and fans ostensibly head toward the after-hours party at the Bird's Nest, it's probably a good time to wrap things up for Round 1.

Let me leave you with one final thought from today's blog and it comes from a few dozen different people that I've spoken with during the week: "If you think Thursday's cool, just wait. Friday will be 10 times better."

Don't believe them? Then listen to Pat Perez, who on Tuesday was already thinking ahead to his second-round date with destiny on 16.

"It's going to be a circus. But it looks cool. It looks really cool, full stadium effect. It's going to be loud," he said. "I'm there Friday afternoon. I'll be getting in there about 4:00 on Friday afternoon, and I'm playing with Couples. There's going to be a lot of people. It's going to be loud."

We should expect no less here at The Coliseum. Round 1 brought cheers, boos, chants and a wave; Round 2 only promises more of the same -- and, like Perez said, louder.

The next edition of my live blog from the self-titled "Greatest Show on Grass" will take place on Friday, starting at 11 a.m. ET. Until then, hit 'em straight ...


4:52 p.m. MT: In his Wednesday press conference, Phil Mickelson was asked indirectly about No. 16:

Q: Is this the only place that you've ever played where you can be cheered fanatically one minute and booed fanatically 30 seconds later? PHIL MICKELSON: It's possible. I think that the 16th hole, which gets a lot of attention, is unique to golf. We just don't have anything like that. And to have that type of environment that NBA players or football players experience and for us as golfers to be able to experience it is pretty cool.

No booing necessary today. Mickelson may be 5-over for the day -- pars on each of the back-nine par-5 holes? ouch -- but the crowds here still love the not-so-big-anymore lug, showering him with praise as he steps to the tee box. His tee shot looks for a second like it's all over the flagstick, but drops on the front of the green, some 32 feet short. Even so, it draws plenty of applause from the approving locals.


4:45 p.m. MT: Even though he's 3-over and in a share of 108th place, Anthony Kim still received his fare share of "Boomer Sooner!" screams before knocking one to about 16 feet.

But the real entertainment in this group came from Stewart Cink, who pulled his shot to the front left fringe, was booed -- then playfully waved his arms to the crowd, asking for more, and even put his hand to his ear Hulk Hogan-style.

Seems like the fans appreciated the gesture, as the jeers evolved into cheers after a few seconds.


4:36 p.m. MT: E-mail from Keith in Arizona:

I've been on 16 in the past. Some inside information (unless you've already figured it out): Aside from all the other reasons to drink and get rowdy, a lot of people bet on every single shot. They bet if the player will hit/miss the green, they bet if the player will be pin high, they bet if they'll be within XX feet. A lot of the time it's a drinking-type bet, so people get even more drunk. Of course, a lot of the betting is also monetary. At least, that's how it used to be.

Good point -- and one that I've definitely noticed but neglected to mention. From what I can tell, seems like the most popular (and easiest) version involves three fans, with each taking one player in the threesome. The winner then gets to draft first in the next group, and so on.

Definitely not a concept unique to just this hole, but one that is pretty prevalent nonetheless.


4:31 p.m. MT: Not sure if some of the guys out here are losing their golf balls in the cacti or what, but there's been a loooooonnnggggg wait in between the last few groups.

That's just made the fans feistier, as the first player to step onto the tee box, Brad Adamonis, knocks one into the bunker and gets an earful. To his credit, at least, he smiles and plays to the crowd a bit. For a big-time Red Sox fan from Rhode Island, this is probably the closest he'll ever get to playing in a Fenway Park-like atmosphere.


4:14 p.m. MT: Up-and-coming star Steve Marino is among those currently on the tee, which prompted this e-mail from Kevin at Stonewall GC in Gainesville, Va.:

I'm friends with Steve Marino and can't wait to see him go through 16. His personality fits that hole perfectly. ... Great story about the Marino family: Steve's dad (also Steve) is a +1 handicap -- and has the highest handicap in the family!!! Steve's little brother Scott is a stick, too -- shot 67 the last time out at my place, one off the course record.

The boys at Stonewall will be happy to know that Marino just knocked his shot to 9 feet, 4 inches -- pin-high just left of the hole.


4:06 p.m. MT: Just as I suspected, it's getting loud.

Troy Matteson just hit a tee shot to the right front fringe -- not the greatest shot of the day, obviously, but hardly the worst -- and received perhaps the loudest boos so far.

Meanwhile, Ryan Moore knocked one to 31 feet on the front of the green -- a pretty average shot in its own right -- and heard a ton of applause.


4:03 p.m. MT: HUGE applause for the next group on the tee, as the "random" PGA Tour tee-time machine forgot to de-alphabetize Troy Matteson, Scott McCarron and Ryan Moore.

Huh, didn't realize these guys were so popular.

Or maybe it has something to do with the pair of scantily clad females following this group from inside the ropes?


3:56 p.m. MT: Is the tournament over? We haven't seen a group come through here in about 15 minutes and the natives are getting restless.

There is now a full-blown wave going around the enclosed stadium seating here at 16, with perhaps more hooting and hollering than we've heard when any players were actually playing. I think this party was just turned up a few notches and expect it to be a lot rowdier for the remainder of the afternoon.


3:47 p.m. MT: He won't get to 16 for another hour or so, but Phil Mickelson might even be hearing boos on some of the less rowdy holes right now.

Lefty is currently 6-over through 11 holes, tied with the likes of Dean Vomacka for 127th place, in front of only Daniel Chopra and Angel Cabrera.

Some good notes on Mickelson, courtesy of ESPN's research department:

• His worst round at the FBR Open is an 80 in the final round in 1999. He had a 78 in the third round in 1993.

• He has made the cut in all 17 of his season-opening events.

• Today marked the first time in his career he has started a season with a double-bogey. Only once before has he even bogeyed a first hole of a season, back at the 1993 Tucson Open, his first full season on Tour. (He played half of 1992 as an amateur and half as a pro.)

• Only twice in his career has he shot over par in his first round of the season (74 at the '92 and '96 Mercedes-Benz Championship).


3:31 p.m. MT: Good analytical question from Stuart in Boulder, Colo.:

With the wind from left to right and a back right pin placement, are the majority of the players opting to hit a draw, trying to hold it against the wind, or are they aiming left and moving the ball in from left to right?

Well, first of all, the wind has definitely died down here in the afternoon. I haven't seen any numbers, but I'd have to guess it was maybe 10 mph, gusting up to 15 in the morning, but can't be much more than 5 gusting to 10 right now.

That said, I'd guess that 90 percent of the players who have come through here have opted to play a draw into the wind, some even going so far as to align their shot at the left side of the front right bunker, some 15 yards from the stick. There have been a few fades here and there, but the draw is definitely the favored play today.


3:18 p.m. MT: Good thing the FBR draws big-time attendance figures no matter what, because two of its biggest draws may not even be around on the weekend.

Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim each played the front nine in 4-over 39 and are currently in a share of 123rd place overall. It's still early, obviously, but neither one had envisioned being 10 shots back by Thursday afternoon.


3:15 p.m. MT: A couple of players who aren't averse to a party just hit some pretty solid tee shots on 16.

Peter Lonard muscled one to 4 feet, 3 inches -- with those forearms, any time Lonard hits the ball he "muscles" it -- followed by Tommy Armour III, who actually hit the flagstick, only to watch it bound 20 feet away to the front left part of the green.


3:03 p.m. MT: Blog Jinx??? What Blog Jinx???

Mathew Goggin -- my real pick to win (not Oberholser; he was just a backup) -- just knocked one to a foot better than Shaq range, hitting his tee shot on 16 to 6 feet, 1 inch.

At 2-under through six holes so far, he's officially the best pick I've made all year -- the final 66 holes notwithstanding.


2:56 p.m. MT: Oftentimes recreational golfers will use an "inside the leather" rule; basically, if a putt is inside the length of the grip on the putter, it's considered a gimme.

Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O'Neal was on the premises earlier this week -- his size 23 golf shoes were awesome -- which leads to a different proposal here at 16: Who can knock it to inside of Shaq?

Nicholas Thompson just became the latest to make that claim, hitting his tee shot to 6 feet, 10 inches -- making it inside of Shaq range by a total of 3 inches.


2:46 p.m. MT: Think this place isn't a party? My buddy Captain Morgan would like to prove you wrong.

Jason Sobel and Captain Morgan
Jason Sobel/ESPN.comJason Sobel ran into all kinds of characters around the 16th hole at the TPC Scottsdale this week.

Accompanied by the, uh, well-mannered Captain Morgan girls, he's been making the rounds at the FBR Open. Yes, he really does talk like a pirate. (And his breath smelled vaguely like alcohol. Strange.)

Actually, the only reason I posted this photo is because of the Captain's unfailing resemblance to former ESPNer Darren Rovell. CNBC never looked so good.

2:35 p.m. MT: Remember that earlier post about the announcement asking fans to remain quiet when players are on the tee? Those are now coming with seemingly every group that steps up to the tee box -- and being met with plenty of resistance.

Actually, "resistance" is probably the wrong word. More like nonchalance. Or obliviousness.

Basically, the folks here just don't care. They treat this as their hole; the players are just walking through and playing a little golf, but that shouldn't be reason enough to refrain from conversing with a fellow spectator or yelling to a buddy on the other side of the hole.


2:18 p.m. MT: E-mail from Jaclyn in Arizona:

I have been reading your blog all day in anticipation of Saturday, when I will be in attendance at the 16th hole along with my sister and all her fellow Sun Devils. I thought you might enjoy this quick story: Last year my sister's friend attended the FBR with a bunch of his frat brothers. He doesn't remember much of the day, but recalls getting home and having a bunch of voicemails and text messages on his cell phone. He checks the first message and it is his mom saying "_____, I think you have a drinking problem when I see you live on the 5:00 news proposing to the newswoman." Yes, he did propose to the newswoman, and after she responded with, "Wow, I am very flattered, but I have kids," he even had the [guts] to tell her, "Don't even worry about it, I love kids ..." I am hoping to leave with stories like this one come Sunday!

Love the e-mail, but here's the Cliff's Notes version for the local guys:

"Hi, I'm Jaclyn and I'll be at the FBR this weekend. I am hoping to leave with lots of good stories."

And she has a sister!


2:09 p.m. MT: Something tells me J.B. Holmes likes this course.

The two-time FBR champ -- in only three seasons on Tour -- is proving to be more than just a bomb-and-gouge wonder. He just dialed in the shot of the day on 16 so far, knocking it to exactly 2 feet. That's the same distance from which he made the unofficial clinching putt of the Ryder Cup in his singles match against Soren Hansen.

Assuming he makes the putt, it will move him to 4-under, two shots back of Nitties, who is already done.


2:07 p.m. MT: E-mail from Trevor in Kelowna, British Columbia:

Hi from the not-quite-frozen north. Buddy of mine is down there and just texted me that someone in the talent pool just proved her worth! Camera phones came out at the speed of light. I'm guessing she ends up on the web sometime soon. I hate him.

Like I said earlier, a lot of talent out here at this event and anyone can do something exciting at any given time. That's why they're the best in the world.


2:02 p.m. MT: Now here's a guy the crowds at 16 can really get behind.

Our new leader is Q-school grad James Nitties, an Aussie who competed on "The Big Break" and lists his main interests as "girls" and "partying." Yeah, that guy must hate this event.

Here's guessing that if the young Nitties wins this week, he'll retire in Scottsdale and live VERY happily ever after.


1:59 p.m. MT: First non-player chant I've heard all day: Fans in the bleachers down the third-base line just serenaded the standard-bearer with "SIGN-BOY! SIGN-BOY!"

And the kid ate it up, tipping his cap to the crowd as he walked by.

Too bad he was outdone just a minute later, as Lucas Glover just chipped in for birdie from 41 feet away, gesturing to the crowd afterwards as he moves to 3-under for the round.


1:54 p.m. MT: E-mail from Andrew in Parts Unknown:

I have Phil Mickelson in the Streak for the Cash game versus Zach Johnson. I'm trying to get to a whopping two straight wins. Any chance you can help me and the other 83.6% of people who took Phil, and give Zach a couple of "Noonan!" yells in his backswing? Or at least advise him to try and hit a little pull hook 8-iron?

Good work by the Streak for the Cash machine -- or is that done by a real person? -- to pit Mickelson up against Johnson, who's obviously playing well, with victories in two of his last six events, including two weeks ago at the Sony Open. I know Mickelson is a big-time player and fan fave, but I'm surprised that less than 17 percent went with the hot hand instead of the guy making his season debut.

They're both currently 1-over through four holes, so it's anybody's ballgame.


1:49 p.m. MT: One thing I'm really starting to like about this gallery here at 16: They don't just cheer for the big names.

In fact, the big names don't seem to get any preferential treatment at all. Instead, it's local guys and those who are fan-friendliest that really make a splash with them. A little while ago, Ted Purdy got some nice applause and that was followed with some big cheers for Jerry Kelly. These may not all be golf fans, but they do have some specific interests in players.


1:45 p.m. MT: E-mail from Shane in Parts Unknown (though I'll gander a wager it's Australia):

Any mojo pies yet this year???

Haven't had one and, honestly, have no idea what they are. But there is a stand that is selling them adjacent to the practice green, which led one player yesterday to wonder aloud, "Maybe if they put an IT in there, we can get some mojitos."

Apparently, mojo pies are breaking into the PGA Tour sponsorship business, though. Geoff Ogilvy currently has an advertisement for them on his golf bag and he's a pretty smart guy. If they're good enough for Ogilvy, then they just may be good enough for me, too. (Attention, mojo pie marketers: Feel free to borrow this tagline for your newest ad campaign -- for the proper compensation, of course.)


1:34 p.m. MT: E-mail from my buddy Jared in Boston:

How many fraudulent Arizona Cardinals fans are there with their Super Bowl gear today? Rumor has it that the 16th has a longer ticket waiting list than the Cards and their fraudulent fan base. And no, I'm not bitter that the 11-5 Pats are not in Tampa.

I've seen a few Cardinals jerseys this week and maybe a couple of dozen hats or other paraphernalia. But really, if you don't turn on the TV or listen to the radio and just observe the locals, you wouldn't know the team is in the Super Bowl. Last night at the Bird's Nest -- supposedly one of the better week-long parties on the PGA Tour -- the band on stage gave a "How 'bout them Cardinals!" type of yell and it was met with mild applause from the crowd. Granted, most likely didn't want to clap for fear of breaking a nail, but still ...

Perhaps more perplexing is the fact that I actually saw a few patrons walking around in Pittsburgh Steelers jerseys during yesterday's pro-am -- without any recourse! In what other NFL city could a fan of the opposing SB team wear a jersey and not be constantly hounded by the home folks? Where else could this happen without recourse?


1:25 p.m. MT: Dark horse selection Scott Piercy was just roundly booed after his tee shot on 16.

Blog Jinx? Or just a bad pick? You make the call.


1:20 p.m. MT: Elsewhere on the course, Phil Mickelson's season has started with a thud.

In his first event of the year, Lefty made double-bogey on the opening hole. Currently on pace to shoot 107, which would match my score the time I played Augusta National the day after the Masters. I'm guessing he won't be as happy as I was about it.

In related news, Anthony Kim has started double bogey-bogey and is 3-over through two holes. He does have shoulder tendinitis, but as I wrote in the Weekly 18, that must have occurred from too much credit card swiping after receiving all those overseas appearance fees.


1:13 p.m. MT: Predictable chant of the day? Kevin Na just walked to the 16th tee box and was greeted with, "Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye!"

He countered with a dismissive wave, as if to say, "Wow, never heard that one before!"

Seriously, where are the Aaron Baddeley dog chants? Or the Paul Casey ex-girlfriend songs? Let's be creative, people!


1:02 p.m. MT: E-mail from Jeff in Portland, Ore., made me laugh out loud -- even if that wasn't his intention:

Since 2003, US Team Cejka has been attending the FBR to kick off the new Tour season with Alex. Due to various reasons, this year we were unable to attend and are stuck in cold, miserable Portland, Ore. Tradition states that we yell "CEJKAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" as he is announced on the first tee. Since that is not possible, it is up to you to yell as he approaches the 16th tee. You are in perfect position. He should be arriving at around 1:30 so be ready. And be loud. He's 2-over after three so he would appreciate the support. Tell him hi from The President.

Hmmm ... I was wondering who took this photo.

By the way, yesterday I watched in amusement as Cejka tried unsuccessfully to flip a golf ball from the ground with his wedge and deposit it into a shag bag. He finally got it after about 10 attempts, then turned to a few passersby and commented, "Guess I'm having problems getting it up."

As for your request, can't do it. Yelling "CEJKAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" would probably compromise any journalistic integrity I used to have and may get me kicked out of this sweet seat. But I'll be yelling it on the inside. OK, Prez?


12:48 p.m. MT: Don't doubt my powers of perception, people.

My "other" pick to win, Arron Oberholser, just stepped to the tee at 4-over. Obviously frenzied by my earlier comment about the state of Oberholser's game on the range, for the first time today fans were told by an official: "Attention, please. Players on the tee. All quiet."

Though not many actually listened, it was no matter for my boy Oberholser, who knocked one about pin-high ... and missed the putt.


12:44 p.m. MT: Earlier, I discussed how the 16th hole has become more "corporate" in recent years. How corporate? Just counted up 127 total skyboxes/luxury suites that surround this hole.

Just eyeballing it, I'd have to say the ratio of fans in skyboxes/luxury suites to those in the stands is about 50-50.


12:24 p.m. MT: Best outfit of the day? (I'm talking for the players here, not in the gallery.) Aaron Baddeley had some nice Doug Sanders-style pants going on, but that's nothing compared to Charley Hoffman.

The Hoff is decked out in a lime green shirt and clashing kelly green glove and shoes. Apparently, it's working for him; he's tied for the lead at 5-under.

I'm disappointed, though, in the lack of originality from the fans. No "Jolly Green Giant" songs. No chants of "Mean Green Machine." Just some polite clapping when he hits the green. Very disappointing.


12:13 p.m. MT: E-mail from Jason in "snow, icy, miserable" D.C.:

I grew up two miles from the FBR and even worked at the local In-N-Out burger in high school. When I was 17, on tournament Saturday, a PGA Tour official came into In-N-Out asking for 40 burgers to go. Turns out the players coming off the course had requested it. I was the lucky guy who got to ride back to the course, in uniform, and "deliver" a bunch of burgers to Tiger, David, Phil and a whole host of others. The best part? I snuck over to 16 and got serenaded with a chant of "Burger guy! Burger guy!"

Love it. If some guy brought me a burger right now, I'd serenade him, too.


12:07 p.m. MT: They're not saying, "Stephen, we love yoooouuuu!" They're saying, "Booooooo!"

OK, so that was a stretch, but in the first group to tee off 16 this afternoon, the first sounds of dissent have emanated faintly from the gallery, as Stephen Ames fails to reach the green.


12:00 p.m. MT: Since it's officially afternoon, it's about time I addressed a question that many of you have been asking for the past three hours: Are you drinking?

If I was, then I wouldn't tell you for fear that the folks back at the mother ship in Bristol would frown upon such things. If I wasn't, then I wouldn't tell you for fear of you thinking less of me as the only spectator in attendance at this hole without a frosty beverage at his side.

Quite a quandary, huh?

As for the other question everyone's asking: Yes, fellas, there is a lot of "talent" at 16. These are some of the best in the world. Everybody looks really good out here. There aren't many who lack the assets it takes to compete with their peers. This is where the best of the best convene to test their skills. Everyone is worth keeping an eye on, because you never know when something exciting might happen.

And you can read into that anything you'd like ...


11:48 a.m. MT: E-mail from Graham in Athens, Ga.:

I noticed that you said, "Based on what I witnessed at the range, watch out for Arron Oberholser this week. Just a hunch." Now I am not quite sure what you saw on the range because he came right out of the gates with a double-bogey on 1. He is currently 3-over through 10. Your mastery of the Blog Jinx is a true thing of beauty.

Thanks. You're now the 412th e-mailer to point this out. Apologies to Arron -- perhaps that was really David Berganio Jr. who I was watching on the range.

Meanwhile, Oberholser is now 4-over through 12. If he finishes DFL, he can blame me.


11:42 a.m. MT: If you had 11:42 in the "First Guy To Yell, 'Get in the Hole!' " pool, you're a winner.

Those are unofficial results, but the cry came from a fan within a half-second of Michael Allen making contact with the ball here on 16.

And no, it didn't get in the hole.


11:40 a.m. MT: Just a quick note to those of you who are reading in colder, snowier regions of the world: Na-na-na-na-na!

There honestly couldn't be more perfect weather conditions in which to sit and watch golf than we have right now. Not a cloud in the sky, about 75 degrees or so, little 5-10 mph breeze blowing through. Oh, and I'm sunburned already.

But, hey, a lot of you can go out and build snowmen and forts and stuff ... so you've got that going for you, which is nice.

No wonder why so many pros live here in Scottsdale -- there are a total of 16 local residents in this week's field. The weather is like this about 350 days a year and during those rare days when it does rain, as local guy Andrew Magee told me yesterday, they love it, either choosing to work on their games in the rain or using it as an excuse to skip a day of practice.


11:32 a.m. MT: Most inconsequential job in sports? That belongs to the marshal standing near the 16th tee who raises his hand in "Quiet, please!" fashion. Even he knows his role is pointless, motioning with feigned indifference as he scours the stands for coeds -- all of whom are hardly heeding his warning.

Compared to this job, first-base coach seems like Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

One thing I've learned quickly at this hole: While it may not be loud yet, it's never really quiet. Unlike, well, just about every other golf hole everywhere, there's a consistent buzz throughout the stands here as people just continue on with their conversations -- backswings or not.


FBR Open
Jason Sobel/ESPN.comThe crowds were a little sparse early on at the 16th hole. No worries, though. It will surely pick up as the day goes along.

11:25 a.m. MT: I've been asked by some readers to post some photos of the scene here at 16. Great idea. If you don't mind the below-average photography skills of a writer snapping shots on a camera phone, then I'll oblige.

In this photo, you can see the stands behind the green starting to fill up, while those down the left side remain almost completely empty. The new seating, which includes about 3,000 more spots, is located to the right of those behind the green. Tough to see in this photo, but it encloses the entire hole. Pretty nice place to sit, in my opinion.


11:14 a.m. MT: E-mail from Dave in Parts Unknown:

Dude, your blog rocks. This is my first time in five years I won't be in attendance at the Greatest Party on Turf. I was sitting in my office, feeling a little down about it and decided to check out ESPN.com for an update. I found your blog and now I feel like I'm right there. Over the previous five years, I have had access to the Coors suite on 16 (left side right by the trap). Although the free beer was great, it just wasn't the same as sitting with "the people" in the bleachers, so every year me and my pals would suck down our share of free beer, then head for the bleachers. The best part on Saturday will be when the chant competition begins between the corporate suites vs. the bleacher creatures. Bleacher people will chant "corporate sucks, corporate sucks" thumbing their nose at the suites. Then the suite people will chant "got free beer, got free beer." It's a toss-up on who wins there, but I give the edge to the bleacher creatures.

You had me at "Dude, your blog rocks."

Dave is right, though. There is a palpable animosity here between the hoi polloi who scurry through the front gates and hope to find a good seat in the bleachers and the special people who can waltz in whenever they wish and lazily lounge around while watching a little golf. I'm not even sure "free beer vs. expensive beer" is the biggest issue here. I think it's "private restrooms vs. waiting in line for porta-potties."

Advantage: Special people.


11:06 a.m. MT: Jarrod Lyle is currently on the tee. I really want to yell out, "Go with the 7-iron!!!"

I'm guessing he used an 8; that's what he told me yesterday he normally hits here, though he may have used a 7 when it was getting colder at 5 p.m. Whatever it was, it was a hell of a shot -- best of the day so far as he knocks it to 4 feet.

Consider it good karma for Lyle. During yesterday's charity event, he was hanging out not for sponsorship reasons or any other contractual obligation. They simply asked him if he wanted to represent the Tour and he said yes. And when they picked a fan out of the stands to hit a tee shot here on 16, Lyle was the first one to congratulate him and even offered up one of his clubs for the shot. Nice guy. Maybe I should have hit 7-iron after all.


10:51 a.m. MT: E-mail from Brad in Naples, Fla.:

Is it realistic to believe that PGA Tour professionals are actually feeling any pressure when it comes time to hit this shot? Do you notice a change in expression, or any acknowledgement of the environment they have just stepped into?

Yes and yes ... but not yet. Right now, the hole has the look and feel of just about any other par-3 on Tour. The fans behind the green are clapping for good shots, but there have been no chants, no songs, no booing -- as is usually the case on Thursday morning of this event.

Once the crowd gets going, though, the hole definitely becomes a bit more intimidating. The fans here do their research, in the past making their voices heard about everything from Aaron Baddeley's dog to Paul Casey's ex-girlfriend. Not easy to hit a shot when you've got ex-girlfriend thoughts rattling in your head.

If a mathematician were to chart the action here at 16, they'd likely conclude that the number of boos emanating from the stands is directly proportional to the amount of booze being consumed.


10:42 a.m. MT: Local boy Pat Perez -- he even has his own parking spot in front of the clubhouse, reserved for Pat "Molito" Perez -- is the kind of guy who would probably enjoy a few cold beverages in the bleachers if he wasn't a pro golfer.

And yet, the recent Bob Hope Classic champ doesn't exactly love No. 16.

"How do you actually answer it, so the fans will like it, or do you answer it truthfully? If you say anything about the hole, you're going to get killed when you get there. I like it. I think it's loud, it's football. The only reason it becomes that way is how it's talked about. Everyone keeps saying it's the loudest hole in golf and everyone is crazy and everyone does this, so everyone continues to do more every year to make it as loud and obnoxious as possible. I don't really mind it. I went to ASU so I've kind of got that on my side. But it's nerve-wracking, that hole. It's not that hard of a hole, and you get up there and you feel like you're hitting on a dime. It's cool. You get it once a year, and it's such a cool-looking hole now with the stadium effect. You've got to like it. You either like it or you don't play."

He heard nothing but cheers a minute ago, knocking his tee shot to 7 feet and converting the birdie. The guy nicknamed PP is now 1-under for the day, but don't expect him to make a run at back-to-back titles. From his press conference on Tuesday:

"I've never played well here. I love the tournament, the Thunderbirds are great, the tournament is phenomenal, but I just don't play the course well. Nothing fits my eye out there. I don't know why. These guys shoot 25-under out here, and I'm lucky to break par. It just doesn't -- hopefully this week it will, but I haven't really played well in the past, so I don't really expect too much."

Toss in the fact that there was a big celebratory bash at the Perez household earlier this week and it wouldn't be surprising to see him well back in the pack come Sunday afternoon.


10:09 a.m. MT: E-mail from Nick in California:

Can you give me your pick to win and a sleeper?

Not sure you want 'em. I make predictions in my Weekly 18 column each week and so far, well, I've made a few triple bogeys.

At Kapalua, I picked Vijay Singh; the next day, the news came out that he needed knee surgery. He finished T-27.

At the Sony, I picked Davis Love III; he MC'd, but at least he didn't hurt himself in the process.

At the Hope, I picked Anthony Kim; he withdrew the next day with a sore shoulder.

Based on those results, I went with a flyer this week, knowing that things couldn't get much worse. My pick to win is a random one -- Aussie native and Scottsdale resident Mathew Goggin, who has never made the cut here. My dark horse pick is rookie Scott Piercy, who is in the field via a sponsor's exemption.

Of course, you see a lot more once you're on site at these things. Based on what I witnessed at the range, watch out for Arron Oberholser this week. Just a hunch.


9:54 a.m. MT: The most star-studded group of the day so far has just reached 16. Geoff Ogilvy, Camilo Villegas and Mike Weir live up to the advance billing, hitting their tee shots to 12, 29 and 14 feet, respectively.

Meanwhile, in the least surprising turn of events so far, the bleachers are starting to fill up, especially those in the sun just behind the right side of the green. And they're making a little noise, too. Looks like the first guests have finally arrived.


9:39 a.m. MT: First e-mail of the week comes from Gary in Wisconsin:

Do you know if the seating is assigned? I would guess it would have to be. If I had a ticket and it was "festival" seating, I would be there first thing to get a front-row seat.

There are luxury boxes and corporate tents that surround the hole -- many more than years ago I've been told -- and spectators obviously need special tickets to get into those sections. But the rest of the stands are first-come, first-serve. If I had to pick, I think I may sit in the brand new bleachers tucked in the right side of the hole. (Yes, the same bleachers where I almost killed a cop with my tee shot yesterday.) Near enough to the tee box that fans can see the golfers teeing off, but close enough to the green that they can catch a great view of the end result.

Plenty of good seats still available, by the way. Like, thousands of 'em.


9:31 a.m. MT: It's difficult to gauge the wind at this hole because the pin flag is blocked by the bleachers and barely swaying, despite the fact that there is a palpable breeze moving left to right and into the players' faces. By looking toward the hole, there's no other visible way to check the wind either, as the mountains provide a scenic backdrop but no measure of conditions.

Before stepping up to his tee shot, Jonathan Kaye just turned around and looked in my direction -- not to chip in for the live blog, but to check the large American flag and Arizona state flag that buoy the scoreboard behind the tee box. It will be interesting to see how many others catch on to this routine and look behind them before teeing it up.


9:23 a.m. MT: Waiting for a hole-in-one at 16? Don't hold your breath.

There have only been seven aces here in the past two decades. The most recent, of course, was that of the inimitable Mike Sposa, who carded an eagle here in 2002. The last one before that? Some dude named Tiger in 1997, who then proceeded to raise the roof, further cementing the game of golf in its hipness rating, which is about 10 years behind the curve.

Think about it in more personal terms: If some guy named Eldrick was raising the roof at your biggest party of the year, isn't it time to reevaluate your social life?

(Cool story: As reported on Golf Channel recently, after Woods made that hole-in-one, the standard-bearer in his group asked for the ball. That kid then gave it to his grandfather as a gift, who in turn recently donated it to the First Tee Foundation. The organization -- whose aim is "bettering the lives of children through the game of golf and the values that are required to play it" -- will put the ball up for online auction in hopes of getting a six-figure sum for its charity.)

Coincidentally enough, the next hole -- the short par-4 17th -- is home to what is believed to be the only hole-in-one on a par-4 in PGA Tour history. Back in 2001, the aforementioned Andrew Magee hit a drive that caromed off the putter of Tom Byrum, who was reading a putt on the green, then rolled into the hole.

If that happens today and I'm sitting here at 16 instead, I'm throwing the laptop onto the tee box and going home.


9:15 a.m. MT: The Watson-Streelman-Bohn group has finally reached the tee -- and they almost outnumber the amount of fans at the hole right now.

If this is the biggest party in golf, then we're currently in the time before the pre-party -- the calm before the storm, if you will -- when the hosts are sitting around watching TV and talking about the how great the party is going to be later on.

With nary a cold beverage in sight -- truthfully, there are maybe a few hundred people in the stands right now -- Watson finds the right bunker, while Bohn and Streelman follow with decent shots into today's back-right pin position and we're off ...


9:08 a.m. MT: My earlier observation regarding how this hole is nothing spectacular during non-tournament weeks isn't based on lack of research; I've played this course previously and it wasn't until I was making the walk to the 17th tee that I realized, "Hey, that was the hole where everyone always drinks a lot and yells stuff." Doesn't quite have the same effect when your gallery consists of scattered cacti and a circling vulture.

It was much different yesterday when I had the opportunity to participate in the "Shot at Glory" -- a one-shot closest-to-the-pin competition at 16 in front of a few thousand fans, though most were paying more attention to their libations than anything a bunch of hackers were doing on the course.

It was a very cool little event, all in the name of charity (I was playing for The V Foundation). Every player had their name and photo on the giant scoreboards at each end of the hole and was introduced by emcee Andrew Magee, while specially chosen intro music blared from the speakers. (I went with "Lost!" by Coldplay, the title of which describes both the current state of my golf game and the inevitable finality of my golf ball.)

When the competition began, it actually looked like some of us -- OK, some of them -- knew what they were doing. Actor Josh Duhamel kicked things off by hitting a nice fade to about 25 feet. Then one by one, everyone seemed to get it on or near the green, though the skill level did devolve to the point where the dude before me actually whiffed before taking a mulligan and topping one about 20 yards. Then it was my turn.

How'd I do? Well ...

Living in wintry Connecticut, I hadn't swung a club in about three months ... and after getting warmed up on the range, it was another hour before I got to hit ... and PGA Tour pro Jarrod Lyle, who was on the scene, tried to talk me into hitting 7-iron but I wanted the 8, so I wasn't fully committed ... and the wind above the stadium seating was swirling ... and I still had thoughts of that swing-and-a-miss guy clattering in my head ... and the weather was getting a little chilly ... and there were shadows ... and Magee was standing too close to me ... and the guy dressed up like Captain Morgan was kinda creeping me out ... and I was hungry ... and really thirsty ... and jet-lagged ... and started having second thoughts about the 8-iron ... and I think a spectator may have yelled in my backswing ... and what happened was ...

I almost killed someone. Worse, I almost killed a cop.

Trying to play a low draw, I hit more of a punch block. This thing was all sorts of ugliness -- a line drive down the rightfield line that never turned over and cleared the bleachers by about a foot. Just a little lower and I would have tagged one of the security personnel in the stands who probably never realized back in the academy that his biggest on-the-job danger would be a bad golf shot. Pretty sure this isn't what Ice-T and Body Count had in mind; I don't remember any lyrics about an 8-iron in that song.

Based on my complete failure at 16, you might think I'd refrain from criticizing players who hit poor shots during the next two days. Not so much. I still maintain that it's a fairly easy hole -- 20,000 screaming fans notwithstanding.

Of course, if some pro does happen to clear the bleachers with a line drive, I just may feel a little sympathy for him, too.


9:00 a.m. MT: If you build it, they will come.

And they'll throw a pretty good party, too.

Fifty-one weeks out of the year, there is nothing spectacular about the 162-yard 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. It features a slightly elevated tee box and a wide green guarded by multiple bunkers -- not unlike so many other par-3 holes around the world. For one week, though, this ordinary swath of land transforms into the most densely populated, rowdiest and -- cover your eyes, golf "purists" -- fun hole in the professional golf world.

This is where the polite golf clap gives way to boisterous chants of approval for sublime shots, where boos and booze flow freely throughout the day. It's where a nearby beer garden blasts Mötley Crüe's "Girls, Girls, Girls" and no one seems fazed at all.

For the first time ever, the hole will be completely enclosed this week -- earning it the nickname "The Coliseum" -- with stadium seating that can engage and engorge up to 20,000 fans at once.

Make that 20,001.

For the next two days, I'll be set up about 10 paces directly behind the teebox, live blogging from the front row of the stands about all the minute-by-minute action from 16 -- both on the course and in the gallery. As always, send any comments, suggestions, wishes or threats via e-mail to fbropenblog@gmail.com. Make me laugh out loud and you're in.

The first group of the day -- a fun one that includes Bubba Watson, Kevin Streelman and Jason Bohn -- should be coming through here in a few minutes, so let's get this thing under way ...

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.