We have record setting crowds, great weather and Phil Mickelson with a six shot lead, The final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open becomes Must Watch TV on Sunday afternoon. In an atmosphere on Saturday afternoon that resembled a cross between the Ryder Cup, and an English Soccer Match, TPC Scottsdale was abuzz with the excitement only a Phil Mickelson or a Tiger Woods can bring to a golf tournament by simply being there, and being on the leader board.
A record setting 179,000 folks showed up in Phoenix on Saturday to watch their local hero perform magic. By the time he reached the infamous 16th tee, and the 13,000 fans who had been waiting all day for the Arizona State Grad to arrive, it took little time in giving them what they wanted. A stripped 9 iron that came within a foot of going in the hole. Playing partners, Keegan Bradley and Bill Haas were customarily booed for missing the green.
Earlier in the day, others had passed the gates of hell that lead to the 16th tee. They were rewarded by cheers when they hit good tee shots, and booed when they didn’t. Some caddies put on races to the green, and some were booed for not racing. Others, like Bubba Watson encouraged the fans to make noise, even while he hit his shot. It was Medinah, and September all over again. After his tee shot, Bubba passed out what appeared to be at least three dozen hats to fans on his way to the green.
Padraig Harrington brought the crowd at the 16th into a chant that was a cross between what we heard at Medinah from the European Fans, and what we hear when tuning in the soccer channel. After hitting his tee shot, Padraig put on a kicking clinic. With his caddie holding the football, the Irishman, who is making his PGA Debut this week, made an extra point into the crowd. He punted one down field, and playing partner, Hunter Mahan played Joe Montana, passing several footballs into the bleachers.
The PGA and European Tours both need more tournaments like the Phoenix Open. It adds to the fan experience for the event, and makes professional golf more watchable. It certainly adds to the Television Broadcast, giving announcers something to talk about, and fans sitting at home something to look forward to, and a break from the stuffy atmosphere that is usually golf.
There were discussions on the broadcast Saturday, that because the final round will be up against the Super Bowl pre-game events, the Sunday crowds will not be as good as we had on Saturday, but for us folks sitting in snow storms, it should provide adequate entertainment leading up to the pre-game show.
Phil Mickelson has a six shot lead, but we’ve seen Lefty blow up before. With last year’s FedEx Cup champion, Brandt Snedeker, and a three time major champion in the final group, I’m not sure it’s over yet. Harrington shot the low round of the day on Saturday, and beat Phil by one stroke in the third round. Who knows, could be an exciting final round.
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