Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

February 3, 2014

The 16th hole

By Dick Platt
Corsicana Daily Sun

— Next to watching professional football on the “Telly,” my favorite couch potato activity is watching professional golf. I am very pleased to report that The Good Wife also enjoys these pastimes immensely and that is a good thing. I have always felt sorry for those guys whose spouse-mates could care less about anything “jock-strappy” and are always pestering them about idling away their time on such trivial matters when they could be out shopping or running errands.

Now here it is, Super Bowl weekend, and we have a real dilemma on our hands. We have to decide whether we give our attention to the pre-Super Bowl hoopla or do we follow the Waste Management TPC Scottsdale Phoenix Open Golf Tournament? This four-day tournament is the most popular event in pro golf and well over a half-million folks attend it. It has a total purse of $6 million ($1,116,000 to the winner) and, last year, it raised about $6.2 million for the local Thunderbirds charities.

I know that a lot of you think professional golf is really laid back and about as exciting as watching grass grow — and it often is, I suppose. However, the Phoenix Open is a whole different ball of wax. Those half-million folks who attend are all crazy. They take up their positions along the course early in the morning and liquid spirits flow freely so you can imagine their conditions and dispositions by the time the leaders come playing by in late afternoon.

These good folks cheer and/or boo the players constantly all along the course, but the 16th hole is an absolute insane asylum. It is a 162-yard par 3 hole that is completely enclosed in grandstands full of the fever-pitched fans. The players arrive at the tee through a narrow tunnel under the grandstand and exit the hole through another narrow tunnel at the other end. It is pure bedlam and some players thrive on it and some are intimidated by it.

There is a small tee-box and then a walking path through Arizona desert to the green about 160 yards away. There is no fairway — just rocks and cactus and a couple sand traps up near the green. If a player hits his tee-shot on the green he gets cheered mightily. If he misses the green, he gets unmercifully booed for the entire walk up to his ball. The close-in bleachers appear to be about 15 rows deep the entire length and then there are double-decked grandstands all the way around the hole.

I have not been able to determine where the bathroom facilities are located in this snake-pit. Relief stations for this many folks who have been sucking up the beer and loudmouth-and-water all day are a must but you never see anyone leaving their positions. What’s up with that? Likewise, I never see the vendors dispensing the libations but they must be there because of the security restrictions on carry-in containers.

In the 1997 Phoenix Open, Tiger Woods hit a hole-in-one on the 16th and the place truly went nuts. Tiger is not playing in Phoenix this year — he is over in Dubai hitting tee-shots everywhere but in the fairways. The absolute favorites of the masses are left-handers Phil Michelson and Bubba Watson, who both attended and played golf at Arizona State University right there in Phoenix. After two rounds, Bubba was tied for first and Phil was eight strokes back. When these guys play the 16th, it is especially wild and I can’t imagine what would happen if one of them hit an ace.

One way the players win over the rabid fans is to go off the path and throw all manner of souvenirs into the bleachers while picking their way through the scrub brush. They throw golf balls, t-shirts, caps, and anything with the colors of Arizona State or Arizona. Some players dispense all manner of strange stuff that their caddies had been toting or they had secreted in the entry tunnel. I saw one player on Friday who was handing out skateboards and I read where Irishman, Padraig Harrington, was drop-kicking footballs to the mobs.

As I write this rant on Saturday, I am looking forward to about five hours of the Phoenix Circus which is in the third round. My wish would be that Phil Michelson would have one of his fabulous rounds (he won here last year) and catch the leaders by tomorrow afternoon. That would make it much easier to forgo the pre-Super Bowl festivities on Sunday. Here’s hoping they don’t have to have a golf playoff because that would interfere with the 6:30 p.m. football kickoff and we will not miss that!

In 2009, there was a golf playoff between Kenny Perry and Charlie Hoffman on Super Bowl XLIII Sunday of three extra holes, which Kenny Perry won. This caused a lot of the Arizona golf fans to miss the first part of the football game and, ironically, their very own Arizona Cardinals were playing in it.

I’m really hyped about the weekend even though I know there will be a letdown next week when I face the reality of no professional football for another six months. Here’s hoping the euphoria we will experience with a Broncos win will offset that depression.

(Editor’s Note: Mr. Platt’s column was submitted prior to the Bronco’s loss in the Super Bowl. Either way, we’re without football for six months, though).

See ya...

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Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com