In any profile of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, you know you’re going to hear all about the shenanigans of the stadium hole, the par-3 16th. It’s an odd hybrid of frat party, tailgate, and just a little bit of a golf tournament thrown in for good measure. If you’re a fan, there’s not a whole lot better in all of golf.
Of course, the players’ perspectives have varied widely. Some like it, some merely tolerate, and others completely embrace it. This year alone, we’ve seen Rickie Fowler handing out hats and other swag from Puma, Bubba Watson passing out Ping-branded visors, and Ricky Barnes handing out skateboard decks from Oakley. If that seems a bit too, capitalistic, shall we say, not every giveaway is sponsor-driven. Arizona State University freshman Ki Taek Lee handed out an ASU flag to raucous cheers on his final walk up to the green.
What’s most interesting about the 16th is that, despite being a relatively straightforward hole with sometimes-tricky pin placement, it’s taking its own toll on the players. Only 18 birdies were made there on Friday, ranking it the ninth-toughest hole of the round. It was the hardest hole in Thursday’s opener.
Asked what it was like in the 20,000-seat Thunderdome, 36-hole leader Watson said “It just kind of all blurs together, one big noise. I didn’t really hear one that stood out to me.” That’s loud, and certainly it has an effect on how players hit their tee shots.
Maybe one of the better ways to attack the hole is to embrace the insanity. Ian Poulter, who last season railed on fans who shouted classics like “MASHED POTATOES!” on seemingly every shot, actually encouraged more noise as he addressed the ball. Then again, he bogeyed the hole and will be headed home after a missed cut, so perhaps not.
The stadium hole giveth, and the stadium hole taketh away.