Sobel's Blog -- Round 2 of the FBR Open
7:30 p.m.: Well, that was fun.
In my maiden voyage to the FBR Open's 16th hole, I heard wild cheers ... almost started taking "BOOOOOOO!!!!!!" as a second-nature reaction to a poor shot ... watched the personalities of some pros (Billy Mayfair, Bo Van Pelt, Kevin Streelman, Jerry Kelly) shine through ... took some photos of the local "talent" ... and, of course, heard my name serenaded by fans.
My final decision on the Coliseum? This place is a blast.
Again, as I wrote earlier, such a concept wouldn't work every week on tour. But for a one-hole, once-a-week deal, it's one of the coolest things the game has to offer.
Without stealing too much thunder from my Weekly 18 piece that will be posted Monday morning, this is exactly what golf needs. Maybe not the hooting and hollering, but some sort of promotional campaign to put people in the seats. Are all 20,000 of these spectators week-in, week-out diehard PGA Tour fans? Of course not. But if they take something positive out of the experience -- maybe some will be more inclined to flip on regular-season events in the future after becoming intimately introduced to these players; maybe there are now more Chris Couch fans after his shot this afternoon; maybe more folks will want to hit the range and start playing the game soon -- then that should also serve as a positive thing for the game itself.
Before I leave my cushy gig here in Scottsdale, one final e-mail for the week, from Greg in Vancouver, Wash.:
I enjoyed your Thursday blog, right up until the last line blessing: "Until then, hit 'em straight ..." Thanks for the advice. My golf game is mediocre at best, but I almost never hook or slice. Even on my worst shots I hit 'em straight -- straight into the water, straight OB, straight into the next fairway over, straight at the poor guy in the passing golf cart ... you get the picture. How about after your Friday blog you sign off with a different, more welcome blessing? Maybe "Until next time, hit 'em down the middle ..."
Fair enough. Thanks for reading the past few days and thanks for all the e-mails. This one's for Greg ...
Until next time, hit 'em down the middle ...
7:17 p.m.: A few days ago, Pat Perez succinctly said of 16: "I'm playing with [Fred] Couples. There's going to be a lot of people. It's going to be loud."
He's right. Their threesome (along with Johnson Wagner) just came to the tee and -- no surprise -- Freddie is the fan favorite of the day so far from the corporate types in the luxury boxes, who might now actually outnumber the hoi polloi in general admission.
7:06 p.m.: With more than half of 16 now covered in shadows, the fans are starting to retreat in droves. But those who left early just missed a great one.
Chris Couch just knocked his tee shot to 1 foot, 4 inches -- the best shot we've seen in two days, besting that of J.B. Holmes' dart to 2 feet yesterday.
That was sandwiched by Daniel Chopra's shot to 14 feet and Scott Verplank to 9 feet. Not sure anyone is crunching these numbers, but I'd be willing to bet that a total of 24 total feet from the hole is the best for any threesome over the first two days.
6:44 p.m.: For the first time all day, the ladies in the crowd were just making more noise than their male counterparts.
How come? That's easy: Camilo Villegas.
With shrieks of "SPIDERMAN!" and "WOO-HOOOOOOO!" emanating from the stands, there's no doubt which player is in best standing with the women here in Scottsdale.
Rough life, Camilo.
6:37 p.m.: I wrote earlier that the fans here at 16 -- especially those just to the left of the tee box -- are not only loud but they're educated and have done their research.
Now I have proof.
I have procured a copy of "The List -- 2009 Edition" from one of the guys in the crowd and, well, if the ESPN research department is looking for help, it might want to start here.
"The List" includes facts such as Kevin Streelman went to the same high school as the Belushi brothers, Jeff Overton made an albatross at the 2007 Barclays, Dean Wilson's middle name is Hiroshi, Jeff Maggert's high school colors were purple and gold, Matt Bettencourt once had a job selling shower doors and Ken Duke's hero is Larry Bird.
That is a very well researched list. Good job, fellas.
6:30 p.m.: Not sure whether you remember, but Paul Azinger was the captain of the United States team that won the Ryder Cup last year.
And for those who don't remember? Well, Zinger brought his own form of memory recollection, pulling an American flag out of his bag and waving it to the fans as he walked up to the 16th green.
For the record, the cheers were greater than when Billy Mayfair put on the Arizona Cardinals jersey but less than when Kevin Streelman handed out candy.
So there you go. The fans here like, in order: 1. Candy; 2. America; 3. Arizona Cardinals.
6:26 p.m.: Cool note on current leader Charley Hoffman (10-under with four holes to play) from PGA Tour media official Mark Stevens:
Hoffman is playing in the 101st event of his PGA Tour career and has never led at the end of the first, second, third or fourth rounds. His only tour win came at the 2007 Bob Hope Classic, which is a five-round event. Hoffman was four strokes back heading into the final round of the Bob Hope Classic.
6:03 p.m.: Etiquette? We don't need no stinkin' etiquette!
As Kevin Streelman readies himself to hit, the tee-side announcer bellows, "Quiet, please! Thank you!" to which Streelman shakes his head and starts pumping his arms toward the crowd. They cheer for him and then are rewarded as Streelman takes a plastic bag filled with Lemonheads candy and chucks handfuls into the stands while playing partner Bubba Watson tosses them some extra hats.
And from what I'm told, the Lemonheads taste excellent with a few beers.
5:57 p.m.: If someone is going to make an ace at 16, it just may be Jason Bohn.
Back in college at the University of Alabama, he made a hole-in-one for $1 million. Only problem? As a collegiate player, he would have had to turn down the cash in order to retain his eligibility.
Instead, Bohn took the money and ran -- he still receives 50 grand per year, which will pay out for a total of 20 years -- using it to pay for lessons and help pave his way to professional golf.
Not this time, though. Bohn hits it to pin-high. Maybe tomorrow.
5:54 p.m.: Speaking of restless chants, the best one of the day (other than "SOBEL! SOBEL! SOBEL!" of course) may be, "COOKIE MONSTER! COOKIE MONSTER!"
The fans in the cheap seats yell that to the luxury boxers and -- that's right -- they receive free cookies raining down from above.
5:40 p.m.: How restless are the fans during the respite between the final group that teed off 10 and the first afternoon group that teed off 1?
So much so that when I took a stroll down near the tee box for a minute, they even serenaded me with a "SOBEL! SOBEL! SOBEL!" chant. Though the tournament doesn't keep official statistics, I've been led to believe this is the first time in FBR Open history -- scratch that, golf history -- that a blogger has been serenaded by fans in the gallery.
Eat your heart out, Herbert Warren Wind.
5:19 p.m.: Just spoke for a few minutes with Ginger Doyel, an illustrator who is working on paintings of every hole on the course.
She was only about halfway done with the one on 16 when we talked, but it looked incredible. She told me that the original works will be going to the commissioner's office in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (Finchem may want a big print of the 16th hole on his wall to remind himself of what it looks like to have a packed house at a PGA Tour event), but copies can be purchased through her Web site at gingerdoyel.com.
5:01 p.m.: One of the 18-hole co-leaders, James Nitties, should be coming to 16 very shortly. Though he's slipped to a share of 12th place (2-over for the day), he should be commended for his excellent post-round interview yesterday. As noted in my friend Bob Smiley's Fore Right blog:
REPORTER: The book lists one of your hobbies as "clubbing," and some of us old guys think we know what that means, but could you confirm that?
JAMES NITTIES: Well, it equates to going out to a club per se, or a bar, or a social area and having a couple drinks and sort of catching up with friends and listening to some good music.
Click the link for more on Bob's take. And buy his book, "Follow the Roar," about spending the season on Tiger's tail. It's good. And that's not just because he mentioned me in it. Twice. And no, I wasn't keeping track.
4:58 p.m.: Interesting story on Kenny Perry from my friend Dan, who works with the Transitions Championship event:
Earlier this week, Kenny was having major problems with his eyes. He had to have a procedure done by sports vision specialist Dr. Larry Lampert to give him an emergency eye irrigation on his eyes. Apparently Kenny's eyes were so bad he couldn't get his contacts in a good part of the week and even thought he may have to withdraw.
As you may recall, Perry's eye problems were so bad before and during last year's PGA Championship that he was forced to withdraw after just one round.
Not today, though. He shot an 8-under 63 that has him in third place overall.
4:53 p.m.: OK, this Arizona Cardinals stuff just went to a new level.
First, Bo Van Pelt had the "2008 NFC Champions banner," then Kirk Triplett showed his Cards headcover to the crowd.
Now, Billy Mayfair just showed up at 16 wearing a Tim Hightower jersey. He was even introduced on the tee as the Cardinals' starting quarterback (someone may want to tell the announcer what position Hightower plays).
Hightower -- er, Mayfair -- just found the right side of the green. And yes, the fans loved the whole thing.
4:42 p.m.: E-mail from Tom in Simi Valley, Calif.:
I think TPC Scottsdale should at least keep the tunnel the players walk through from 15 to get to 16 year round so regular players like us can still feel something about the hole. I'm with you. I played there a couple of summers ago and I wouldn't have noticed 16 unless I was thinking about it beforehand. I was much more anxious to play 17 and see if I could drive the green. (I didn't.)
Love that idea. It couldn't be the same tunnel, since the current one is part of the construction of all luxury boxes as well, but some sort of makeshift tunnel would enhance the experience during the other 51 weeks a year.
Why stop there? Though they're probably not getting 20,000 fans to watch Tom from Simi Valley, course officials could construct stands filled with fake bodies, leave the big scoreboard with people's names on them and -- best of all -- pump in some crowd noise. There you go -- the full FBR Open experience.
I mean, really, what would it cost to have a few speakers around the hole and pay a guy 10 bucks an hour to hit a button for either cheers or boos based on a player's shot? And if you didn't want the audio effect, you just tell 'em in the pro shop when you pay the greens fee. Let's make this happen, somebody.
4:36 p.m.: More home team love. Kirk Triplett -- after getting booed for a bad tee shot -- is waving an Arizona Cardinals headcover toward the fans, who shower him with cheers.
Of course, I get the feeling that it could have been a Vancouver Canucks headcover and as long as he waved it in the direction of the fans, they would have cheered in exchange for giving them some attention.
4:18 p.m.: What do you get when you take the PGA Tour pro most fans love to hate, put him in front of a gallery largely consisting of folks from his rival school (the loud ones, at least) and cap it off with a lousy tee shot?
No, the fans aren't calling for Mr. Weekley; they're berating U of A alum Rory Sabbatini, who's become a favorite whipping boy in most arenas, but especially here.
4:14 p.m.: The wind has definitely picked up here at 16, from non-existent to about 10-12 mph right-to-left and into the player's faces.
As we saw players do yesterday, more are starting to consult the Untied States and Arizona state flags behind the tee box to see the conditions, including Steve Stricker and caddie Jimmy Johnson, who just spent a good 30 seconds discussing the situation.
4:05 p.m.: I've walked past the brand new Buick Enclave parked about halfway down the hole on the right side maybe a dozen times today, but it wasn't until now that I discovered the "TW 14" license plate and "Baby On Board" suction cup sign.
Hmmm ... guess this is the car Tiger Woods had to give back when the GM deal expired.
(That's a joke, folks. I'm sure he's still driving his Buick around. I mean, wouldn't you, if you were him?)
3:59 p.m.: An overlooked component to 16 -- well, overlooked by me, at least, during the past two days -- is that the hole isn't over after the tee shot.
Uh ... obviously.
Nathan Green pours in an 11-footer for birdie and Eric Axley drains one from 8 feet on top of him, much to the fans' delight.
Believe me, there are no birdie putts these guys want to convert more this week than those at this hole.
3:45 p.m.: So much for the ambivalent Arizona Cardinals fans.
While walking toward the 16th green, Bo Van Pelt just endeared himself to the locals forever by pulling a "2008 NFC Champions" banner out of his golf bag and waving it around for a minute before jogging over to the stands and tossing it into the crowd.
Take that, Jerry Kelly.
3:19 p.m.: One other cool thing about these fans? They do their homework.
From the time players walk through the tunnel from 15, there are sing-song chants regarding everything from college and high school team names ("Moccasins!" "Eskimos!") to famous people from their past.
Earlier today, while walking toward the green, a few fans serenaded Derek Fathauer with a woman's name. When asked why, one of them replied, "Oh, she's a Playboy model. They went to high school together."
That, my friends, is called research.
3:16 p.m.: Good rapport going on between the folks in the cheap seats and the luxury boxers right now.
The fans in general admission will chant for a corporate sponsor until they get their attention. Then they'll ask them to "CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!" until someone obliges the request.
Sure, the luxury boxers may be chugging Chardonnay and gin-and-tonics, but hey -- at least everybody's getting along.
3:10 p.m.: Loudest cheer of the day at 16 goes to ... Matt Bettencourt.
Last year's Nationwide Tour leading money winner, playing this event for the first time, just knocked one to 3 feet, 2 inches.
And yet, he almost made the cardinal mistake on this hole. After the wild cheers, fans asked Bettencourt to "TIP YOUR CAP! TIP YOUR CAP!" while walking to the green. Took him awhile, but he finally obliged, drawing even more cheers from the crowd.
2:59 p.m.: E-mail from Dave in Garfield Heights, Ohio:
You haven't been running many reader e-mails today. Is that intentional, or have we just been dropping the ball?
Actually, the inbox has been humming today; I've already received about as many e-mails as all day yesterday and we've still got a few more hours to go. But there's only one of me, man. As mentioned earlier, I've been trying to walk around the hole more today and report from different spots. That means leaving the laptop (and hoping no one decides to use it as a receptacle for their leftover beer) and blogging on the PDA, where I can't cut and paste the e-mails nearly as easily.
That said, keep firing away. I'll post as many as I can get to. And remember, make me laugh out loud and you're a lock to get in ...
2:57 p.m.: Heard in the stands: One group of three fans has been placing wagers on each threesome that comes to the tee. When the now-twosome of Mathew Goggin and John Mallinger approached, the guy with the first pick chose ... David Duval.
Dude, that's what you get for not reading the blog.
2:54 p.m.: E-mail from Marc in Maryland:
Besides covering the majors, where does this tournament rank for you?
Dirty little secret about covering golf: We look at things a lot differently than those attending as fans. For instance, can I book a hotel room two weeks in advance within a mile of the course? At most majors, no; here, yes. Do I have to take a shuttle or walk more than a mile from the media parking lot to the course entrance? At most majors, yes; here, no. How accessible are the players? At most majors, you can hunt them down; here, I conducted two interviews in the front of the clubhouse when I first got here before even checking in at the media center.
That doesn't mean we dislike covering majors; they're just ... different.
Comparing this to other regular-season events, though, it might be my new favorite. I've always maintained that the Mercedes-Benz Championship at Kapalua could never be topped -- and I'm not sure I'm wavering from that opinion now -- but this is right there. Scottsdale is a heck of a town, too. I can't recall having been to a city where absolutely no one has anything bad to say about it, save for the fact that it gets really hot in the summer.
So yeah, I'm enjoying myself right now.
2:42 p.m.: Your current FBR Open leaderboard shows Nick Watney at the top. I've been waiting for this kid to break through -- he's got one career win, the 2007 Zurich Classic -- so don't be surprised to see a big season from him.
(And just so you don't think I'm some bandwagon jumper based on his current play, you can read this.)
As I wrote, Watney passes the eyeball test; he's got one of the easiest, sweetest swings on tour. If he can putt well -- which he's doing so far this week -- he could be an elite-level player.
2:26 p.m.: Poor Charlie Howell.
In the race for Nicest Guy on the PGA Tour, he may be the clubhouse leader, but a badly pulled tee shot on 16 may have elicited the loudest boos of the day so far.
Even though he's added about 20 pounds this season, I was surprised CH3 wasn't serenaded with an "EAT A SANDWICH!!!" chant.
2:12 p.m.: I'm standing behind the 16th green, there is a line about 100 deep, maybe more, waiting to get into the general admission grandstands.
Luckily for them, there are also people consistently filtering out -- for beer runs, bathroom breaks, etc. -- so the line is steadily moving.
2:03 p.m.: Wow, this is some pin position.
With his ball nestled just right of the right greenside bunker, Chad Campbell just chipped onto the putting surface about 15-20 feet short of the hole ... and saw it roll all the way past to the left fringe, 19 feet away.
That's a sure way to make bogey every time.
1:56 p.m.: If this place holds 20,000 spectators, then we've got to be at 15,000+ right now.
The bleachers behind the green? Packed. The seats down the right-hand side that were empty a few hours ago? Full. The left-hand side? Getting there. The sky boxes? Buzzing.
1:40 p.m.: There aren't many players who draw bigger cheers from the crowd than Jerry Kelly -- and it's easy to see why.
After knocking his shot onto the green, he gestured toward the crazies to yell louder and applaud more.
When they implored him to, "TIP YOUR CAP! TIP YOUR CAP!" he took it off and tossed it about 10 feet in the air.
It's fun to see the players with some personality getting a chance to show it off on a big stage.
1:35 p.m.: The fans at 16 won't be able to razz David Duval later today. He has withdrawn from the tournament due to "illness," according to the PGA Tour's on-site media officials.
1:24 p.m.: Some of the other sporting events that e-mailers have listed to rival the 16th hole ...
From Jeremy in "freezing Green Bay, but we have a heat wave so it may get to 20 today":
I would have to say judging from the atmosphere at 16 the only thing I can relate would be a USA-Mexico soccer match. I was at the one in Chicago a few years back and it is unbelievable. There were 60,000 fans hanging on every moment, but sitting in the Sam's Army section of U.S. supporters is the best! We show up 4 hours before kickoff, sucking beers all day. Enter the stadium marching, chanting USA songs and wait. Seating is first come first serve and we sing all game long! We got hit by a cup of urine thrown from the upper deck but we didn't care; it was an unbelievable atmosphere!
Haven't seen any urine-throwing at 16 yet, but I'll keep you in the loop.
From Kevin in Louisville, who admits a hometown bias:
Seriously, you must have never been to the Kentucky Derby. It's annual -- and so much crazier than the 16th. I am not even sure what insulting or creative comments I should write. So I think I'll pass and just say one thing: Does the FBR's 16th corral 120,000 people into a confined space, drop all age requirements for drinking, have cops taking pictures of girls flashing them, duct tape dude (guy who annually walks around infield wearing nothing but duct tape), oh and a horse race that serves as the oldest continuously running sporting event in the nation? I'd say Derby infield dominates the 16th.
Six times the amount of people, six times the amount of fun?
From Oscar in San Diego:
What the FBR is to Scottsdale this weekend, Seafair is to Seattle in mid-August. College students pack the stands for a party with little thought on the actual sporting event going on. It's an annual event, great weather. Nobody really cares who wins the hydroplane race, people just pack Lake Washington with kegs and half-naked woman for an onboard lake party.
I'm gonna guess Oscar meant "women" ... or else it sounds like more of a private party.
1:14 p.m.: Fans to PGA Tour rookie Gary Woodland: "16TH HOLE VIRGIN!"
That was kinda funny.
1:04 p.m.: The Thunderbirds -- the group that hosts this event -- are pretty smart about everything here at 16.
At most tourneys, officials do everything in their power to preclude fans from behaving in any way other than that of proper golf etiquette. At 16, the Thunderbirds understand that it's going to be a wild scene and so they use the crowd to their benefit instead.
I just witnessed one official walk up to the ASU group and shake all of their hands, while doling out "Quiet Please" signs to a few of 'em. The message here is obvious: The officials know they can't police the crowd, so they entrust the crowd to police itself.
And so, they'll scream and yell up to the point where a player hits his tee shot, remain quiet during the swing, then scream and yell some more.
Kudos to the Thunderbirds for figuring this out.
12:54 p.m.: I'm not sure how to say this. In fact, I can't say it. Maybe I can just allude to it.
It seems some of the fans on the course have realized I'm blogging from around the hole. And some of these fans really, really want to be mentioned in the blog. And, uh, they're offering up their friends in return. Their female friends.
For some reason, that almost never happens when I blog from the media center at Augusta National.
12:43 p.m.: Like most every shot on 16, Bob Tway's tee ball is met with a huge, "GET IN THE HOLE!!!!" from the fans.
There have been a grand total of seven aces here. That's it. Seven. And none since the second round in 2002, which -- using my limited math skills, averaging about 400 tee shots on 16 per tournament -- means there have been more than 2,500 shots at the 16th since the last one found the bottom of the cup. With that in mind, isn't it time to amend this call?
"GET TO WITHIN 10 FEET OF THE HOLE!!!"
"GET TO ABOUT PIN-HIGH FOR A NICE, MAKEABLE UPHILL PUTT!"
Seriously, folks, time to get a little more reasonable.
12:36 p.m.: One of the cooler things about the luxury boxes on the left side of the tee box -- where I'm standing right now -- is the ability to walk 20 yards in the other direction and get a bird's eye view of the fun par-5 15th hole, which plays 552 yards and presents a nice risk/reward challenge for those trying to reach in two over the water guarding the green.
In fact, don't tell the thousands of fans lining 16, but it's flanked by two holes -- 15 and the short par-4 17th -- which are much more aesthetically pleasing and fun to watch than the fairly standard par-3.
It makes me wonder if a time will ever come when more fans eschew the fervor of 16 in favor of witnessing more interesting strategy and decision-making on the holes nearby.
12:27 p.m.: A close inspection of the enclosed stands here at 16 shows that it's no contest where the favored seating is.
As mentioned, the bleachers directly behind the green are almost at maximum capacity -- they're filled on the right side (where players walk to the 17th tee box), but some seats are still available on the far left side underneath the scoreboard.
Next most popular spot is the new seats just to the right of those in back. The ones down the left side have plenty of room available and almost nobody is in the stands on the far right, which are already completely in the shadows.
Meanwhile, the luxury boxes are slowly starting to populate, but there are a lot more empty seats than people right now.
12:07 p.m.: E-mail from Josh in Las Vegas:
My Environmental students are watching "An Inconvenient Truth." Ironically, I'm freezing while sitting here at my desk. Anyway, I watched the highlights last night and in years past, and I was wondering: What other sporting events/venues could you compare the 16th to? When I lived in Jersey, I saw the Open at Baltusrol, and watched MJ take apart Spike and the Knicks at the Garden, but the 16th looks ... funner. Anything come to mind?
It's a great question and I don't think those are fair comparisons, since the events you mentioned were individual ones, rather than the annual ritualistic nature of 16. (I've often said that I've never had more fun covering a golf tournament than the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage, but again, not really a fair comparison.) I've attended Super Bowls and World Series, but they have a different vibe; spectators care more about the on-field action than their own good time and don't feel as much a part of the festivities in those situations.
Not sure there's anything else like it in the U.S., though I could be wrong (and welcome any suggestions to the inbox). As for internationally, I imagine some bullfight in a foreign land may draw a similar feel of it being a festive occasion, but again, I'm not sure. It's like one part keg party and one part rock concert, with a little golf tournament thrown in, too.
11:59 a.m.: I know the PGA Tour assigns "random" tee times to players, but couldn't someone have fixed it so that Phil Mickelson competed in the early-Thursday/late-Friday wave to ensure he'd be coming through 16 during Happy Hour?
Instead, the fan fave is at the tee right now -- and has nothing to be happy about. Mickelson is currently 6-over and could be looking at his first missed cut in his season-opening event since 1993.
And it's not getting any better. Mickelson misses the green with his tee shot and hears the boos from the gallery, who aren't afraid to show the ASU grad what they think.
11:53 a.m.: I'm about 180 yards from the bleachers behind the green, but it sure looks as if they're already at or near maximum capacity. Not bad considering just the fourth group of the day is coming through right now.
It's also about 10 times rowdier than it was 24 hours ago. The ASU guys are pelting players with comments about personal information as they walk through the tunnel toward the tee box. (The chant of "HAPPY HOUR! HAPPY HOUR!" for Anthony Kim may have been a bit distasteful, but nothing he didn't expect, I'm sure.) And those near the green have been jostling for position when players walk toward 17, requesting -- ever so politely, of course -- that each player toss his golf ball into the stands as he exits. I don't think any of 'em have failed to oblige so far.
11:40 a.m.: First e-mail of the day comes from Jaime in Parts Unknown:
I'm 29 years old, a 7-handicap and I love golf. I would say I'm a purist (not too uptight, though), but would like to know your take on the fan behavior at 16th. Do you think Ben Hogan's grave turns upside down during this week?
Hogan definitely never witnessed a scene like this -- and from everything I know about the man, I'm guessing he'd go the Tiger route and choose to keep the FBR off his schedule most of the time. But really, the fan behavior hasn't gotten too out-of-hand yet -- other than yelling in a player's backswing or during a putt, nothing else bothers the pros too much -- and, really, this is good for the game.
I'm currently working on the lede to my Weekly 18 column in which I'm planning to write that the FBR Open should be considered a model from which all other second- and third-tier events (the non-Tiger tourneys, if you will) should learn. There doesn't have to be a 16th hole every week, but the PGA Tour and its tournament directors need to find creative ways to pack the stands and garner interest in events, as the FBR has done.
It's an idea that I brought up to David Toms, who serves as a PGA Tour board member, and he completely agreed, saying there should be other ways for tournaments to increase local interest in their product.
Believe me, the players wouldn't want 20,000 screaming fans greeting them on one hole every week -- most say they're OK with this idea once a year -- but it's the greatest marketing thing going on tour and the attendance figures back that up. In today's economic climate, especially, anything officials can do to make their events more appealing should be seriously discussed.
11:32 a.m.: Don't worry; I promise we'll discuss a little golf today, too.
If yesterday's conditions were perfect, today's are perfecter. Not a cloud in the sky, non-existent wind and I'm already getting a sunburn on the right side of my face.
We've got a difficult back-left pin position on 16 green today -- not the optimum go-right-at-it placement. I could be mistaken, but I believe the pin position for ideal scoring is usually saved for Saturday, when it seems like there are more great tee shots than any other round.
11:26 a.m.: During yesterday's live blog, I wrote that there didn't seem to be an overwhelming interest in the Arizona Cardinals from the local fan base, considering they're playing in their first Super Bowl just a few days from now.
I received some e-mails from fans debunking this notion, but some locals here at 16 just confirmed my visual observation.
"Three weeks ago," one guy said, "you didn't see anyone, anywhere wearing Cardinals stuff."
Another fan wearing a Cards t-shirt chimed in, "Three weeks ago, you couldn't even find Cardinals stuff in stores."
Just a hunch, but if this event were being played in Pittsburgh this week, there might be a little more fervor on the course for the upcoming game.
11:16 a.m.: The first group of the day has finally arrived at the tee -- and the first shot of the day, from Ryan Moore, is met with a vociferous, "Get in the hole!" from the ASU alums in the stands to the left of the tee. (It doesn't.)
If there is a hole-in-one today (and remember, there hasn't been one since Mike Sposa in 2002), these guys are ready for it. The 11-year 16th hole veterans brought their homemade signage, which reads: "All Time Aces at #16 -- 7." And yes, they have an "8" at the ready, just in case.
11:07 a.m.: I think I just learned the first rule of photography here at 16: When taking a shot of fans wearing No. 16 jerseys, saying, "Uh, can you turn around?" is always going to evoke a few lewd comments. Live and learn.
Quote of the day so far comes from the elderly gentleman working as a marshal on the ground directly below the orange-shirt guys: "It's a good thing you took their picture now because in a couple of hours they won't be able to stand up."
11:00 a.m.: Round 1? That was nothing. Kid's stuff. Child's play. Rated G.
From what I've been told, the party doesn't really get started here at the FBR Open's 16th hole until Friday, as so many fans to decide to reward themselves with a little three-day weekend. (Note to all ASU and U of A professors: Don't take it personally if your classes are half-empty today. Besides, consuming the sights and sounds of 16 -- not to mention consuming other things -- should be part of the collegiate experience anyway.) Already I've seen fans wearing orange jerseys with the number 16 printed on the back -- and not because they were giving tribute to Denver Broncos WR Chad Jackson -- while the stands are starting to fill up more than at this time yesterday.
Everything is fair game on Friday, from dogs to ex-girlfriends to standard-bearers to, well, everything. (Truth be told, I was planning to wear my lime green pants in honor of Charley Hoffman, but decided against it for fear of the catcalls.)
Like yesterday, I'm set up right behind the tee box; unlike yesterday, I'm going to roam around more and get a sense of the scene from all angles. And I promise more photos -- requests may be granted.
With that, let's get this party started. As always, hit me at firstname.lastname@example.org early and often throughout the day. And keep 'em funny. Nobody likes a buzzkill.
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