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|In its 25th year, the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale remains a great play for the PGA Tour pros - and the rest of us. (Courtesy of TPC Scottsdale)|
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A week after the chilled fans of the 2011 Waste Management Phoenix Open left the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale, there were still skeletal remains of the grandstands where the PGA Tour's pre-eminent event is staged.
No hecklers could be found at the par-3 16th, where more than 20,000 fans cheer and jeer as the pros strike their tee shots. The course's designers, Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, probably never dreamed it would become a crescendo with such a boisterous crowd watching.
"Really it was designed as just a little bridge hole to get to the 17th and 18th," said Weiskopf. "Here is this little par 3 that doesn't seem to be much of a challenge."
Morrish said the hole has become a "rallying point for the unduly enthusiastic and sobriety-challenged portion of the gallery."
Some pros even bring gifts to try and appease the rowdies. If you miss the green, expect an unhappy response. Leave a putt short and boos will reign down.
The 16th is part of a final four-hole stretch that can send players and fans into a frenzy, or break a pro golfer's heart.
It is hard to believe TPC Scottsdale is in the midst of its 25th anniversary celebration, and the legends of this tournament have grown over the years on a golf course that Weiskopf and Morrish designed for a specific purpose -- to host the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
"Our goal was to create some risk-reward opportunities in the last four or five holes and give a guy who was two or three strokes back a chance to get right back into the tournament," Weiskopf said.
The 17th hole certainly created drama this year. It's only 332 yards, but a sliver of water just short and left of the tricky green gobbles up a bunch of balls. Phil Mickelson rocketed his drive into the water twice -- in the third and fourth rounds. Scratch your head and wonder why these grip-and-rip pros just don't play safer, especially on the final day when the pin placement is in the back miniscule nose of the green.
This is a fun experience -- to walk where the pros tee it up. And a mandatory forecaddie makes the day even more enjoyable, especially when you play a week after the tournament. You will also enjoy the condition of the course, as well as the hustle and bustle of the grandstands coming down.
My forecaddie was especially helpful, showing me the right spots to aim and adding comments about past Phoenix Opens, when some pros shined and some pros failed.
Take the par-4 17th, for example. Andrew Magee aced the hole in 2001. It was a bizarre event that happened just after he had made a double bogey on 15. He pulled out driver, the ball bounded onto the green past Gary Nicklaus and Steve Pate, struck Tom Byrum's putter and ricocheted into the hole.
In the final round of the 2011 tournament, Tommy (Two Gloves) Gainey nailed one of the red stakes, propelling his ball into the water, then he chunked the chip. His triple bogey took him from contender to a tie for eighth place.
You too, can experience these failures at No. 17. Or you could be heroic.
Most amateurs who play can't help but think of the tournament and what their favorite pro did on 15, 16, 17 and 18. And Weiskopf and Morrish nailed it when they built drivable par 4s.
"Short par 4s are hard to do correctly," Weiskopf said. "If you are going to lay up, I want the players to have the pressure of a tough chip and putt. And most of these, I do have the biggest green on the course with lots of contours and movement in the putting surfaces. But there are other ways to do short par 4s. Just think about No. 10 at Riviera Country Club -- tough, short hole, but it has a small green."
TPC Scottsdale features a practice facility with a massive range and short-game area. There's also the PGA Tour Academy, which offers golf schools and individual lessons, utilizing the latest in video and computer software. The school also employs some of the best instructors in the country.
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort offers an assortment of golf packages that let guests play both the Stadium Course and the Champions Course at TPC Scottsdale, as well as nearby Grayhawk Golf Club.
A luxury world-class hotel, golf and the Willow Stream Spa -- what a combination.
March 11, 2011
David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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