TPC Scottsdale: Stadium Course.

Get yer’ shotguns, it’s another week of target practice out in the desert! The course, outside of holes 15 through 17, is completely forgettable. But these three holes, under tournament conditions especially, are pretty cool. #15 is an NLU-endorsed, completely reachable par-5 which presents some risk due to water all down the left side, as well as loosely surrounding the green. #16 is wholly unremarkable under normal conditions, but transforms to a crucible of nerves and excitement (more on this in a second) this week. Finally, #17 may be one of the most underrated holes on Tour. It’s a true risk-reward par-4, playing 332 yards on the card but often shorter in competition. There’s water just off the green left and long, forcing most guys to bail short and right. But be on the look out for the handful of Aces challenging the flag, especially the back/left location nearest the hazard–these guys deserve our utmost respect and admiration.

The 18th hole has been a criminally nondescript par-4 with a pond that’s not really in play off the tee. In fact, prudent strategy the last few years is to just bomb Driver as far as possible in the general direction of the hole, taking the hazard out of play, and getting a free drop from the grandstands if need be. It’s an anti-climatic end to a strong finishing stretch of holes, not to mention the tourney in general. But there’s some good news, according to Matt Ginella of Golf Channel, the Stadium Course is set to get a makeover this Spring.

A Quick PSA Concerning #16

Before: Just a bunch of people hanging out and day drinking

This is an issue that hits close to home. The 16th hole is far and away one of the coolest places to enjoy golf. It has nothing to do with the hole itself and everything to do with the atmosphere. The epicenter of the week’s debauchery, imagine the 16th like your favorite bar, on the best night of the year, with an amazing crowd of friends, gorgeous scenery, prime people-watching opportunities, and a collective BAC that’s closer to ‘coma’ than ‘legal.’ However, the last few years there’s been a steady, corporate gentrification of the hole. We’re seeing the displacement of hundreds of frat bro’s and sorostitutes from the hill behind the right side of the green, shrinking public bleachers down the left side (taking away the vantage of the 15th green–some of the best people AND golf watching opportunities from the top of that grandstand), and an influx of corporate boxes/grandstands now completely surrounding the hole and squeezing Joe Fan out.

Look at the how the hole has transformed just within the last few years, from more public-friendly:


To a bastion of corporate excess:

What about Joe Main St.?

At some point enough’s enough, and the resplendent plebeian chants of “corporate sucks!” will fall silent, as there aren’t any more plebeians. Very rarely do we get all populist around here, but in this case we feel obligated. If the T-Birds aren’t careful, we’ll have the equivalent of a Coliseum chock full of Senators and Patricians munching on grapes and attempting to refine the bacchanal proceedings unfolding before them. Unacceptable. Never forget why the 16th hole is the 16th: it was a place anyone could chill while enjoying some pops, catching some rays, and talking a little junk.

Now: Heavily-branded, Choreographed Fun


Normally we tuck this section into the nether-reaches of the column, but not this week. This tournament is ALL vibe. It’s style over substance, except the style is really goddamn substantive. For years now there have been countless pieces attempting to capture the atmosphere, so we’ll save our breath and boil it down like this: fake blondes, haterblockers, day-drinking, fake blondes, high heels at a golf tournament LOLZ, day-drinking, fake boobs, cut-offs and tribal ink, ASU co-eds, sunshine, mountains, fake blondes, day-drinking, a spirited mix of Ed Hardy apparel and exclusive golf-club-logo duds, fake boobs, more haterblockers, day-drinking, fake blondes, and last but not least, day-drinking.

Think of the average dude who shows up for the tournament as Trapster or “The Sack” from Wedding Crashers. The average female pretty much ranges from naturally gorgeous to artificially-enhanced gorgeous. In a nutshell, the week is exceedingly fun, chill as hell, and actually conducive to a wide range of interests (e.g. drinking, posting, styling, bronzing, gambling, heckling, and even spectating).

A big chunk of credit for the vibe goes to the tournament organizers and hosts; the all-male, civic organization of Phoenix dubbed, ‘The Thunderbirds.’


Golf-charity Illuminati, the T-birds purposely shroud themselves in mystery, which is way too okay with us. You’ll see these guys patrolling the grounds, dressed in the most spectacularly ostentatious threads–indigo, plush-velvet blouse tops, aggressive belt buckles, and pseudo-Jesus-pieces hanging low and loud. Really, it’s perfect. It’s exactly how I want my mysterious, fraternal, civic-minded organizations to front. So many questions, so much confusion.

Started way back in 1937, the Thunderbirds have strict membership bylaws. First off, like any self-respecting secret order, you don’t find them, they find you (a public directory of Thunderbirds does not exist). At any time, there are only 55 ‘active’ members, and to join the flock, one has to be nominated by at least two actives. Further, like the best part of fraternity bid night, nominated members must be unanimously voted in by the group. Black balls are in play, y’all!

Interestingly, active members have to be 45 years old or younger. Old and comfortable need not apply, the T-birds are young and hungry! Once an active crosses the age-45 threshold, they transition (we’ll guess through some sort of lurid ceremony) to ‘lifetime’ member. These lifetime members still help out with proceedings at the WM Open and other initiatives, just realize they aren’t calling the shots.

The most incredible part of the Thunderbird group is their election of a leader, a self-glossed, ‘Big Chief.’ Oh. Hell. Yes!

The current Big Chief is a go-hard named Tom Altieri, a Senior VP at a Phoenix-area bank (duh).


The last thing we’ll say, and with utmost certainty, is these guys know how to play host to a hell of a party. The atmosphere around the Phoenix Open may not necessarily be their doing, per-se, but their public-service mission has evolved into a municipally-decreed week-long rager – cool with us. A big NLU-salute to all the Thunderbirds, whoever the hell you are.

Lastly, while most will pay homage to the Bird’s Nest, we’ll refrain. We view it as an affront and diversion to the day-drinking, and an overcrowded, over-hyped after-party spot. Post golf, go clean up, grab a choice cut of meat and bottle(s) of wine, and hunt big game in its natural habitat around Scottsdale/Phoenix.

Last Year

The People’s Champion, prodigal progeny of the Valley of the Sun, returned ‘home’ triumphantly with a tour de force performance. He magnificently paraded around the grounds before legions of exultant, loyal subjects with pomp and circumstance not seen since Tiberius returned from his conquest in the East of the Dacian frontier around 101 AD.

Lefty opened the week’s proceedings with a virtuoso, 11-under par, 60, which if you’ll recall, really should have gone down on the card as a 59.5. How the HELL did this putt on 18 stay out?

Phil is wearing the golf equivalent of a “power suit”

After that it was a boat race, with Mickelson going 65-64-67 the rest of the way to post a -28, 256 and win comfortably by four shots. One has to think the T-Birds will try to reign the scoring in a bit this year, no? Before last year, the previous nine winning scores had fallen between 263 (19-under) and 270 (12-under).

Fantasy/Gambling Insights (all lines courtesy, the Official Bookmaker of

Horses for Courses

This field is wide open – gotta bring Bob Baffert in!

  • Keegan (20/1). He’s due. Top-25’s the last two years here. Drives the shit out of the ball and rolls his rock, a winning recipe in these parts.
  • Horschel (25/1). Yes, we pick Horschel every. single. week. Dude’s gonna win three times this year, mark it down. He’s #trending and got it to 16-under last year.
  • Mahan (33/1). Inauspicious start to his 2014 at the Farmers, but something tells us he’s been in the lab this winter and is gonna come out diggin’ these next several weeks. Former champ has more than solid track record here.
  • Leishman (40/1). How many times did Faldo mention he led the Farmers in proximity to the hole? Two straight top-5’s, won the Travelers (a scoring haven) in 2012. Not much history here, but he’s #trending.
  • Na (66/1). Most weeks, Na is a horse in the same sense that this is a horse. But it’s a different story when he’s in PHX. He has four top-5 finishes here – pretty solid considering he’s only 30 years old. After a lost 2013 season, this pace-of-play terrorist will come back strong in ’14 and has done just that so far with two top-10’s during the reach-around.

Value Fliers

Sir do you have a KrogerPlus Card?

  • Garrigus (66/1). Bomb-and-gouge specialist. Useful.
  • Overton (80/1). Honestly no idea why we have a hunch on this guy – he just seems like the type of shit-head who needs to win this tourney. And he is playing relatively well right now.
  • Stroud (125/1). Top 100 in the world, two top-3’s in the reach-around, and decent results here the last couple years. These odds seem criminally low.

The Fringe

  • On Friday afternoon the guys on CBS will reference “a course up north of here” where certain guys who played in the morning went to practice. That place is Whisper Rock and we at NLU hold this place in similar esteem to how Muslims view Mecca. Besides having arguably the most talented golfing membership anywhere, their 19th hole shuts it down.
  • We’d be remiss not to mention that The Big Unit is in the field! What a welcome surprise – other than him, there is a dearth of oddities in the field this week.
  • Little known fact: Billy Mayfair’s YOTTO trophy from ’95 is kept on premises in the clubhouse at TPC Scottsdale (much like the Heisman Trophy at respective winners’ campuses). Oh wait, there isn’t a YOTTO trophy. Damnit.
  • Mike Weir is in the field. Since finishing 17th at the 2010 WGC Match Play he’s played in 73 tournaments without a top-25. Let that sink in.
  • Normally, we’d be really bullish on Double P given the circumstances (great result last week, ASU roots), but he’ll no doubt have a plethora of his crew in town getting after it–most notably Pat the Bat. Expecting him to be mentally focused and ready to grind, is both foolish and unfair.

More important things to do this week for DubP . Also pictured (from left): a col’ beer, former MLBer Pat Burrell.