by Jeff Skinner
So Hunter Mahan goes low on Sunday to steal the win at The Phoenix Open and finally get his 2010 season headed in the right direction. YE Yang blew it when he drowned his ball on the 17th and Rickie Fowler decided to use one of his best weapons and lay up on 15. His wedge came up too short for him to convert it for a birdie and overtake Mahan. We should get use to seeing Fowler’s name on the top of the leader board, he’s got some game. It’s Mahan’s first win since the 2007 Traveler’s and maybe this is the year he fulfills all the expectations that surround him.
Ai Miyazato pulls back to back wins to open the LPGA season. She wins the HSBC Women’s Championship to go with her season opening win at the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand. Miyazato shook off two straight bogeys to come back to shoot a respectable 69 but Cristie Kerr has to be kicking herself for the way she finished her day. She had the lead during her back nine but two poor drives caused her to bogey both 17 and 18. Recently she has earned the reputation of the best American closer but on Sunday she threw up on herself with those bogeys and it cost her the tournament.
The real excitement on Sunday happened right where the PGA Tour hoped it would: at the par three 16th hole at the TPC Scottsdale. Each year the tour promotes the 16th as the loudest and craziest hole in golf. A few years ago they even surrounded the entire hole with bleachers and skyboxes to give it that “stadium feel.” The fans there are the loudest and most obnoxious in golf. They certainly aren’t ruled by the normal rules of etiquette that apply to fans at every other golf tournament.
The Tour and television encourage the fans to be loud and rowdy in an effort to make this tournament a little different and get more eyes watching it. The fans cheer a good shot and unlike anywhere else in golf, they boo a poor shot and find other ways to show their displeasure.
For years the Phoenix Fanatics have given it to the players that miss a birdie, fail to hit the green or three putt. They are not a merciful group and no one is spared from their venom.
Almost all the players say they like the hole and think it is good for golf to have such excitement at a single hole but I think most of them are just trying to be politically correct and avoid being the focal point of the wrath of the thousands of drunks that surround the hole. If a player came out and said that the hole is a joke and a disgrace, he wouldn’t make it out of the 16th alive. The hooligans fans would absolutely kill him, at least figuratively.
So yesterday the fans got a little taste of their own medicine. It started with a good shot by the always gregarious Ian Poulter. He put his ball in birdie range and was loudly cheered by the fans. But when he missed his birdie putt the cheers turned to boos and jeers. Poulter putted out to more boos and chants of USA, USA and who knows what else was being screamed at him. After he gave a thumbs up and a clap or two he gave the one finger salute back to the morons that populate the 16th. That’s right; the bird, flipped them off, gave them the finger. So maybe it isn’t a polite response but it is certainly the most appropriate. Those drunken idiots deserved it. While Ian’s at it he should also shoot that middle digit at the PGA Tour and Tim Finchem for perpetuating the Coliseum mentality at the 16th.
I’m all for the fans enjoying themselves and I don’t mind them having a few beers but the situation at the 16th crosses the line. After a day of drinking and partying at the 16th those fans are generally out of control. It’s about time the PGA Tour did something and I don’t mean about Poulter. He’ll probably get fined but what he did was no worse than what thousands of those fans do all day and they are all encouraged to be loud and obnoxious by the PGA Tour.
Maybe I’m in the minority but I tune in to watch golf and I really don’t care to see a bunch of liquored up, knuckleheads carry on. If I wanted to see that I’d turn on C-Span and watch Congress.