Waste Management Phoenix Open: 16th Hole Changing for the Worst

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2012

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 04:  (L-R) Ben Crane and Bubba Watson sing for the fans on 16th hole tee during the third round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on February 4, 2012 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale has always been an exhilarating, albeit altogether different, experience in professional golf.

More than 20,000 fans pile into grandstands surrounding the 162-yard Par 3 in what has become a stadium virtually the size of Boston’s Fenway Park.

Fans can become a bit rowdy at times, particularly as happy hour approaches on Friday and Saturday evening, but such can be expected within any stadium of that size.

When was the last time you attended any major sporting event without seeing at least a handful of fans that have had a few too many bowls of loudmouth soup?

Whether you love the concept behind the 16th hole stadium or hate it, the excitement it brings to a sleepy pre-WGC, pre-Masters part of the season cannot be ignored.

But in recent years the stadium surrounding the 16th hole has turned into a tacky three-ring circus, and not because of the fans, but because of the players.

As might be expected in this day and age of seven-figure endorsement deals and players that are more concerned with whether or not their picture appears on the cover of a video game than their finish at the last year’s Masters, the players have turned the 16th hole into their own personal advertising platform.

Guys are now using the advertising reach they have been given at the 16th to promote everything from equipment and apparel to music videos.

Ricky Fowler put on not one, but two of his sponsor’s hats to simply hit a tee shot into a 162-yard hole yesterday afternoon and then immediately turned to his caddie, who had a bag full of Puma gear waiting for Fowler to distribute to the fans.

In fairness to Fowler, he did go on to birdie the hole before digging back into his bag for a few more sponsor giveaways prior to exiting the stadium.

Bubba Watson hit his tee shot into 16 and was then joined on the tee by Ben Crane to do a rendition of their popular youtube hit “Oh-Oh-Oh.”

Unless you had been enjoying happy hour since 10am that morning, or were quick with the channel change draw while watching on television, it was an ear curdling experience that no human being should ever be forced to endure again. 

Following the live version of “Oh-Oh-Oh” Watson proceeded to hand out a bag full of Ping gear to the fans, before flubbing his first putt and leaving himself with more than four feet for par.

Unlike Fowler, who finished the day at four-under-par for the tournament, 13 strokes behind leader Spenser Levin, Watson and Crane were only six strokes back with 21 holes left to play at the time of their live concert on the 16th tee.

The 16th at TPC Scottsdale is about one step away from John Daly singing country songs between tee shots.

Perhaps next year all of the Golf Boys can reunite for some kind of “halftime” show during the final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Heck, I’m half surprised that someone didn’t get onto a PA system yesterday afternoon and say, “If you are setting in section 124, seat 14 you have won a date with Tiger Woods’ mistress No. 4. Please make your way to the Gate C entrance to claim your prize.”

Similar to just about any aspect of professional sports that draws the attention of the masses, money has gone and taken hold of the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale and things have begun to change.  

The 16th hole no longer constitutes golf. It has turned into one large advertising platform that players are using to push goods, services and even music videos onto a 20,000 strong fan base that thought they had come to watch golf.

The likes of Bobby Jones, Clifford Roberts Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson must all be turning over in their graves.

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