FBR Open turns it up - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

FBR Open turns it up

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Posted: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 5:33 am | Updated: 9:12 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The golf snobs on the PGA Tour long have hated the rowdy atmosphere at the 16th hole of the FBR Open.

Well, the Phoenix Thunderbirds have some disquieting news for them:

They ain't heard nothin' yet.

The infamous 162-yard par-3 is about to pump up the volume.

Bleachers have been built along the entire left side of the hole. Fifteen additional skyboxes have been constructed along the right side and behind the green, increasing seating capacity by about 1,000.

No. 16 now is, in the truest sense, stadium golf. Imagine: 7,000 loud, boisterous fans ringing the hole, and there's only one place for the noise to go — in the players' ears.

“It will be like hitting a golf ball in Sun Devil Stadium,” said Jim Riley, the tournament's skybox chairman. “You're going to be surrounded.”

Oh, Vijay Singh will love that.

The impetus for the expansion wasn't to make the 16th hole noisier — it already leads the PGA Tour in decibels — but more profitable.

Basically, corporations desired more skyboxes at No. 16, and at a price range of $30,000 to $45,000, the Thunderbirds were only too happy to give them what they wanted.

For some golfers, however, that money won't buy happiness. Enclosing the hole with skyboxes and bleachers will significantly increase the noise level.

Think of it this way: If the 16th hole can be described as the obnoxious drunk of the Tour, it just drank another six-pack.

Tournament chairman Bryon Carney said the Tour signed off on the, uh, stadium expansion.

“They saw the drawings and they were fine with it,” Carney said. “It's just different. Guys play 25 events a year, they practice by themselves on the driving range their whole life, and here is one hole a year where you have the atmosphere of an ACC championship basketball game.

“The players that don't like it aren't going to like anything that is non-traditional,” Carney added. “The younger players will love it.”

The Thunderbirds, the civic organization that runs the FBR Open, should be careful when it comes to No. 16. Fans caught up in the party atmosphere have crossed the line.

Last year, Chris DiMarco was greeted with jeers of “Noonan,” a negative term from the movie Caddyshack, when he hit his tee shot into a bunker on Sunday.

In the final round of the 2000 Open, fans cheered wildly when Hal Sutton's tee shot found a pot bunker left to the green.

They may have been responding to Sutton's criticism the day before — "I think there's a pretty damn good party going on out here, and there's a golf tournament lost somewhere in the middle of it,'' he said — but even at the 16th hole, cheering a player's misfortune is a no-no.

But as long as the unruly fans are kept quiet and the drunks are tossed from the premises, there's nothing wrong with making “the most exciting hole in golf” a little more exciting.

There's enough sameness on the PGA Tour, from the players to the clothes they wear and the courses they play.

“The more the players get involved with the crowd, the better experience they'll have,” Carney said.

Just ask John Daly.

Four years ago Daly stopped his backswing on the 16th tee because the crowd had gone silent.

He turned to the fans, raised his arms and said, “No, no, I want you to keep cheering.”

The crowd went nuts, and the Open had another moment to remember.

Some players never will get used to No. 16. All they hear is noise pollution.

The heck with them.

As long as fans are courteous, crank it up.

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