For years, the FBR Open has been about much more than golf, which is good for a reporter whose expertise in the sport — beyond a video-game console, at least — is minimal.
I’m much more suited to be the eyes and ears of the activities on the periphery of the fairways, and there is typically a lot of that at the TPC of Scottsdale. Through Sunday, documenting the event surrounding the event is my assignment (as well as for fellow Tribune writer John Leptich).
Being the eyes and ears of the FBR Open starts with a visit to the Shell Vacations Expo Center, the first thing most attendees see. Located in a large tent near the TPC’s East entrance, it is chock full of sponsors selling everything from golf equipment, shoes, wines, cell phones, financial advice — even private planes.
On Thursday, the most eyepopping sponsor was Discount Tire Co., which offered a large display of tires and wheels. The company had a booth at the recent Barrett-Jackson auto auction in Scottsdale. Good idea.
But the FBR Open?
Hmmmm. We’ll visit the Bird’s Nest, follow Phil Mickelson for a few holes, hang out at the 16th tee, enjoy a beer and cigar, and, oh yeah, pick up some alloy wheels while we’re at it.
Evidently, the market for golf and tires is there, which is why Discount Tire Co. is back for a fourth year in the Expo Center tent.
“This is my second year,” said Sheldon Scott, a manager at the display. “We don’t do quite the business we do at Barrett-Jackson, but it’s been good. It’s a little surprising, but people walk through and like something they see.”
(Memo to the Trib’s promotions department: We gotta get a booth in the tent. Another, unnamed local newspaper has one, and the portable foldout chairs it is giving away are enticing.)
HOT OR COLD?
A worker in the Greenskeeper concession stand said coffee was selling well in Thursday’s chilly conditions, but admitted beer was still the No. 1 beverage of choice.
“(Customers) don’t care about the weather,” said the woman, who politely declined to give her name.
On a day of golf that brought light applause at best, former President George H.W. Bush got a rousing welcome when he was whisked through a crowd large enough to be a gallery at 11:20 a.m. Bush left his skybox seat above the 18th hole at 12:50 p.m. for a golf-cart “motorcade.”
Before finishing his one-day Open visit, Bush wanted to chat with golfer Brad Faxon on No. 18. When he was done, Bush spotted a wide-eyed young boy. Cane in hand, the president sidled over and started a quick conversation.
“What grade are you in?” Bush asked. “Sixth,” replied the boy, who added that his father allowed him to skip school for the day.
“Hard or easy?” the president inquired.
“It’s OK,” said the boy, who extended his hand. After pressing the flesh, the boy ran and vanished into the crowd yelling, “I’m never gonna wash this hand!”
To all of the big brothers and sisters attending the FBR Open: Don’t lie to your impressionable younger siblings and insist the car on the lake in front of the 18th tee sits on water because of magic.
I heard at least three little kids told that on Thursday. And that’s just mean.