SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Padraig Harrington was at a loss when asked to describe the Phoenix Open’s par-3 16th hole in one word.
“I’d like to see somebody describe it in one word,” Harrington said about the stadium hole at TPC Scottsdale.
The Irishman got into the spirit last year in his first appearance in the event, punting footballs into the crowd.
“I grew up as a goalkeeper, so I can kick a ball,” Harrington said.
“I have been out here a long time and it’s nice to see something different. … Golf shouldn’t be the same every week. … Golf should be more fun. This week, they certainly do fun in a big way.”
The fun has been diminished a bit with the PGA Tour’s decision to ban caddie races to the green because of safety concerns.
The charged environment makes the 162-yard hole more demanding.
“The last thing you want to do is three-putt on 16 and have everybody shouting and cheering at you,” Harrington said. “That’s the beauty of the hole. It certainly brings in different emotions. There is no way you can stand on the 16th tee and not feel excited, a little bit of a tingle, a little bit of nerves. You just don’t want to mess up.”
Lee Westwood is making his first start in the event.
“Obviously, 16 is unique in the world of golf,” the Englishman said. “There is nothing else like that. You just need a little bit extra focus and concentration at those times, but also to enjoy it. … Listen, if I had bought a ticket and I was coming to this tournament, I’d be on 16 drinking beers, too. That’s right where I’d be.”
The hole will generate about $10 million in ticket revenue. Twenty-three skyboxes have been added, pushing the total to 200 and the overall capacity to 20,000. The skyboxes sold for an average of $46,000.
ALLENBY HONORED: Robert Allenby will receive the Charlie Bartlett Award from the Golf Writers Association of America, given annually to a player whose unselfish contributions have improved society.
In the Aussie’s case, it’s all about cancer.
Allenby’s best friend as a child died of leukemia when they were 13. When Allenby turned pro seven years later and was introduced to a “Challenge a Cancer Support Network” to help children with cancer, he jumped right in. Over the last 23 years, Allenby has raised over $26 million through programs in Australia and Florida.
Perhaps the best face on his work is fellow tour player Jarrod Lyle.
Lyle was diagnosed with leukemia as a teenager and vividly recalls the inspiration he received from Allenby coming to see him in the hospital. Seven years later, they played a practice round in the British Open at Hoylake.
“I’m very humbled, very honored,” Allenby said. “But nothing has changed with the cause. We’re still trying to help children with cancer.”
Allenby will be honored April 9 at the GWAA’s awards dinner in Augusta, Ga.
BIKINIS AND BIRDIES: The tournament has added a beach area, complete with lifeguards, to the Greenskeeper complex on the west side of the lake on the par-4 18th.
The venue also features 30 cabanas, a super suite and a multiple viewing decks.
The forecast high for the first round Thursday is 77. It is expected to be in 60s the final three days, with highs of 69 on Friday, 66 on Saturday and 65 on Sunday.
DIVOTS: An estimated 525,821 fans attended the tournament last year, setting records for the second round at 121,901 and the third round with 179,022. The crowd of 62,234 on Wednesday set a record for the pro-am. … The action doesn’t end when the sun goes down. O.A.R., Jake Owen, Weezer and MetalHead are the featured acts at the Birds Nest across the street from the main entrance. … After the tournament, the City of Scottsdale will begin a $15 million project to modernize the city-owned course and clubhouse. Course designer Tom Weiskopf will reposition three greens and expand several others. Several tees and bunkers also will be repositioned and renovated and the irrigation system will be upgraded. … Arizona State freshman Ki Taek Lee shot a 7-under 65 on Monday at McCormick Ranch to earn a spot in the field. Chris Smith and Danny Lee also qualified.
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