Tron and I are going to team up for some notes/thoughts on the Phoenix Open this week.
For me, the Phoenix Open marks the true start of the golf season. The reach-around portion obviously doesn’t count, Hawaii is a complete novelty, and Torrey consistently underwhelms on style and substance. The energy around TPC Scottsdale combined with the liveliness of the broadcast (McCord, who I really like, is in full weirdo-mode) captures my attention and reminds me why I love watching golf. This year is special too for another reason–it marks the ten-year anniversary of my trip to the desert (making me feel exceptionally old).
A decade ago Tron and I were rolling into Phoenix off a near two-month bender in Colorado. We had technically dropped out of school (Tron maybe more so “technically” than me–I was a couple credits short of graduating, he was like a year-and-a-half short LOL). We drove down through the nether regions of Utah, braved blizzard-like conditions in Flagstaff, and finally found warm weather and a great time in Scottsdale.
Rare are the opportunities to experience a sporting event like the Phoenix Open where on the one hand I ‘knew’ quite a bit about it, but on the other really knew nothing at all. The most similar event I can compare it to is the Kentucky Derby. Everyone can watch the Derby and see the pageantry, horses, fancy dresses and stupid hats. What you have to go and experience for yourself is the third turn of the infield. It’s incredible. The full spectrum of public drunkenness and indecency. The horses are an afterthought, paid no mind except for maybe how the numbers stack up on your betting slip.
Well in much the same way that’s what awaits you in Phoenix. It looks and feels like a gigantic party on television, and unequivocally, it’s more so than you think on the ground. Again, full range of public drunkenness, though unfortunately a bit less indecency (although, Jesus, I can’t image what the Arizona St. coeds are or are not wearing these days). And like the Derby, many (most?) people couldn’t give less of a shit about the golf. It’s raucous, it’s profane, it’s scenic. It’s fun.
Anyway, mostly owing to our depleted bank accounts, Tron and I started each morning of the 2007 Phoenix Open with a bottle of the cheapest wine we could find (Tron’s penchant for the finer things probably steered us away from Forties). We swung by Trader Joe’s and scooped up some Two Buck Chuck on the way to the course. Of course we weren’t the only people tailgating, so while we spent some time in our car listening to God-knows-what (a lot of Jeezy probably), we also found a ton of fascinating people to chat up in the parking lot. And as far as vibes go, it doesn’t get much better than the tournament parking lot (will just leave that there).
Honest to God, one of the things that has stayed with me about the tournament is the exceptional logistics of getting people both in and out of the parking lot, as well as from their cars to the course. It’s like the world’s biggest lot, and they run this never-ending string of coach buses from the lot to the course in a way that outclasses every other tournament I’ve been to. Very professional.
The tickets are obviously plentiful and not really all that expensive. One of the days they were running a special where kids got in free with a ticketed adult or something and Tron and I took advantage as a Father/Son combo (I’m 6’7″ so it’s easier to get away with stuff like that). I could go on forever about our actual experiences inside the tournament that week, but in the interest of time and space, I’ll only bore you with a few of my favorites:
*The Thunderbirds, the civic organization which essentially puts on the tournament, have an exceedingly chill air about them. Carefree and accommodating, you know they can’t take themselves too seriously based on the plush purple-velvet tops and ostentatious chains hanging from their necks. It’s a mega-intriguing group, and one of the most interesting aspects of the tournament which escapes a lot of public attention. A goal of mine for NLU is trying to dig a bit deeper there and see if we can chat with anybody about the tournament through the years.
*At one point I was pretty-crossed up about where the nearest toilet was and lo and behold Jimmy Roberts rolled by on his media golf cart. I asked him where the john was, and he actually was helpful in pointing it out, though when I asked for a ride he laughed a bit uncomfortably and drove away. I wasn’t laughing, Jimmy.
*Thursday morning we started our voyage around TPC Scottsdale following Pat Perez, Tom Pernice Jr. and whoever else. Double P was obviously the draw for us, but Pernice ended up being the treat. He had this rabid, middle-aged Asian guy following him who could not help but talking him up to Tron and me at every opportunity. He cared more about Pernice’s shot-making that day than anybody’s ever cared about anything. TP would lag a putt or lay up and he’d go nuts, offering up a “Thattaway Tommy!” before turning to us and saying “Man, Tommy’s just playing so well right now.” When we pressed him for the connection he just said he’d always been a fan. Think some kid of Rob Schneider-esque character. So bizarre.
* I’m afraid with each passing year the 16th loses a bit of its original charm and appeal (and, yes, I realize people no doubt thought that when I was there in 2007). Anyway, back then it was corporate grandstands around the back ring of the teebox area and then down the right and left sides a bit. The left side had a huge public bleacher area, and beyond the green was just an open area for people to congregate and mill about.
* The most frequent chant most every day was that of “Corporate sucks!” Fairly regularly, especially during lulls in action, people would just start chanting “Corporate sucks” to everyone and no one in particular in the corporate boxes. It was delightfully stupid. It also captures my feelings as the corporate box creep has enclosed the hole through the years. There are still public bleachers, but I hate that the hole is entirely enclosed with mostly boxes by the green. The little hill by the green was a great place to hang out, people watch, and take in the atmosphere. For shame. The 16th felt organic, and I can’t shake an artificial vibe now when I watch.
*There was this guy posted near the top of the bleachers on 16 putting everybody he could on blast. One poor fella, a UTEP fan, got detonated. Complete takedown. Chastised him for many things, but most notably for not repping UTEP hard enough. “If you’re going to rep UTEP, you better rep them HARD.” I still don’t really know what that means, but I can see the poor guy’s reaction. It was a mix between embarrassment, bewilderment, and sorrow. The entire time sitting on 16 people are constantly yelling at somebody or something. Usually the players, sometimes the caddies, and even a standard bearer or rules official. Most of it was really stupid stuff which no doubt seemed way funnier due to our BAC. And you know what? It was perfect.
*The reception around the course, but especially at 16, for ASU guys is impressive. Mickelson walking into the thunderdome gave me chills. He’s a goddamn conquering hero there. Billy Mayfair, Jeff Quinney, DubP all played the part. I expect Jon Rahm to get the second loudest welcome this week.
*I’ll end with reiterating how much fun going to the tournament was. And I admit, we didn’t even do it half-right (eg., we hardly experienced the Birds Nest). Every year comes and goes and I tell myself I have to get back there. Hopefully that happens sooner than later. If you like golf, like to have a good time, and especially if you’re looking to escape the winter weather in most of the country, get a group of your best friends together and head West. You will not be disappointed.
5am at NLU’s New England Bureau and I’m too tired to be cranky, which is an amazing place to be, especially considering I just watched Poulter shoot 67. Thank God for Euro Tour coverage (which is so classy, by the way) and Netflix (deep into House of Cards). This might be a stylistic nonstarter for our Emirati friends, but I have yet to see a Middle Eastern course that’s not lush target golf. One would think the desalination costs combined with the fiat, sandy landscape would combine for at least a smattering of interesting, strategic courses. I could be wrong here but the optics suggest a lack of imagination and a preponderance of “this is how a golf course should look” developers. Also, the targets mowed into the fairways are a bit too much of a novelty item for me. Anyway, I digress.
This was our first night home with the little man since he was born, definitely missing the nursery at the hospital! I’m already sitting here getting blasted by pleas to call the Addiction Network (not surprising that they advertise during Euro coverage – target market is people like Sarson and I, addicted to Sergio lag). Pretty soon my wife is going to be asking me what a Microtouch Precision Trimmer is and why it’s on our AMEX, or why we’re donating significant sums to the Native American Rights Fund.
RIP Cat (needed to get that out of the way, biggest question at this point is whether he’ll fly commercial back to the States, that blew my mind). Maybe the tourney organizers will regroup the field after round 1 and let Cat play with the other guys at the bottom of the board – he and the SSP Chawrasia could talk boats. As I’m couch-bound for the next few weeks expect to see some fire regarding the CBS broadcasts (always stinks for golf fans when NBC has the Super Bowl). In the meantime, here are some rapid fire takes:
- I like Kyle Stanley to show well this week. Obvious history here and game is trending nicely. Remarkable how he’s been able to reinvent his game from a bomb and gouge-ist to a bit of a surgeon. Also have a sneaking suspicion that Leishman is trending well.
- Keen to see if Richard Flower shows up. He’s quickly becoming the forgotten man.
- The new Skechers commercials are even more insufferable than before. I need the old Omega commercial back in my life ASAP.
- Here’s our Fried Egg ally Andy’s weekly take on the host course: This week, the Tour heads to TPC Scottsdale, a Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish design from the late 80’s. Considering it was built during the dark ages of golf course architecture, TPC Scottsdale is akin to a crack baby turning into a brain surgeon – beat the odds. The vision of TPC Scottsdale came from former PGA Tour Commish Deane Beman who looked to replicate the success of TPC Sawgrass at sites across the country. Weiskopf and Morrish designed the course around the spectator and since its completion in 1987, TPC Scottsdale has served as the annual host to the Scottsdale soiree. In 2014, the course underwent a $12 million renovation in order to modernize the design which had been rendered defenseless to the PGA Tour’s bombers. Bunkers were moved and added in order to help the shorter hitter compete at the track. However, that has yet to be seen as still the leaderboard tends to be chock full of dude’s who can move it and complaints have simmered that the more nuanced greens don’t quite funnel the ball to weekend hole locations like they used to. Like most TPC courses, the closing stretch is designed to create drama. Kicking off with the reachable par-5 15th, before players head into the coliseum for a short-iron shot at the famed 16th, followed by the prototypically well-done Weiskopf drivable par-4 17th which can yield eagles or big numbers (sorry Rickie) and closing with the demanding drive on the stout par-4 18th. Despite its made for TV closing stretch, in the grand scheme of things, TPC Scottsdale is a generic, over-dramaticized and over-priced TPC course that’s signature hole is a bland par 3 made famous by its stadium atmosphere, not its clever design. The notoriety that stems from golf’s biggest annual party allows the facility to charge an outrageous $300+ for a round at the lackluster course during peak season.
- I love 17. When I go back, I’m posting up on 17 tee all day.
- Can’t put my finger on it, but I don’t care for Danny Willett at all (not even factoring in any Ryder Cup related stuff). Correct me if I’m wrong on that one.
- CT Pan impressed last week. Buttery swing. Scottsdale probably not his tempo but could see him showing up at Riv.
- David Lipsky seems like an interesting cat. One of the few Americans who plays on Euro Tour full-time. Young Northwestern Alum quietly carving out a nice career for himself. I will report back.
- Particularly enjoyed this one from our punching bag du jour, the inventor of the McRib (gotta give credit where credit is due!):
— Robert Lusetich (@RobertLusetich) February 1, 2017
Lastly, Soly tweeted this last week and it generated quite a bit of buzz, went through the GolfWRX ringer and then emerged pretty much intact (years got conflated but the gist of it was accurate):
A buddy of mine has a fantastic DJ story from his amateur days pic.twitter.com/z9anmnme7t
— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) January 25, 2017
The number of DMs that floated in with more stories was staggering. If even a tenth of them are true then we are dealing with the biggest menace in the history of the world. I could not locate a full field list for the tournament in question but the source is credible. Regardless, even if it’s not true it speaks volumes that this is even in the realm of possibility. Name of the “player” in question has been redacted:
I got a __ story. I wanna say it was the 04 Sahalee Players Championship in Washington. Anyway, __ had a host family that week and hadn’t played well. I can only assume he was hammered the whole tourney. Anyway, he barely made the cut and was off early for the final round. The whole week he had been flirting with the mom from the host family. The dad had no idea. The night before the second round, he pulled the trigger and smashed her in the guest room. He did the night after that and the night after that as well. The morning of the final round, the husband found out about it somehow. When he found out, __ was on about hole 15. Little did the husband know, __ had a back nine start because he was near the back of the pack. So the guy was posted up on 18 waiting to throw blows with __. Word got around on 17-18 that this guy was here to fuck up some guy who banged his wife. It trickled around to __ and before the husband could find out he finished up on 9 and hopped in a taxi to the SeaTac. He got out clean and hasn’t seen them since. Buddy played with him during final round. Said it was openly discussed on the back nine.
Enjoy the tournament this weekend. We’ll both be locked in!