Wading into Golfapalooza: the Phoenix Open's 16th hole
In this Saturday, Feb. 5, 2016, photo, people gather in the grandstand on the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale, during the third round of the Phoenix Open golf tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz. A picturesque par-3 for 51 weeks, No. 16 at TPC Scottsdale transforms into a golf version of a party cruise the week of PGA Tour's annual stop in the Valley of Sun. (AP Photo/John Marshall)
SCOTTDALE, Ariz. (AP) John Huh studied the shot from every angle before crouching behind his ball for a last look.
''It doesn't break!'' a fan yelled from the bleachers.
Huh then stepped to the ball and stroked a putt he thought to be true. Instead of curling into the hole, the ball held its line, spreading a grimace across Huh's face.
''I told you it stayed straight,'' the fan chastised. ''You should have listened to me.''
Any other tournament, the fan would have been told to hold it down, refrain from giving away competitive information.
At the Phoenix Open's 16th hole, it was a speck in the cacophony of golf's rowdiest hole.
A picturesque par-3 for 51 weeks, No. 16 at TPC Scottsdale transforms into golf's version of a party cruise the week of PGA Tour's annual stop in the Valley of Sun.
With its triple-decker stands rising from the desert, booze and boos, it's more football stadium than golf hole.
Quiet please? Never going to happen.
''There's really nothing like it in golf,'' Webb Simpson said after finishing his round last Saturday.
The day at No. 16 starts well before dawn, when fans line up for a sprint to get the best seats.
My buddy, Curtis Burns, and I arrived later in the morning and the buzz – from the drinking and the action – was already in full bloom, like wading into the middle of a daylong rock festival.
Getting to No. 16 isn't easy. A PGA Tour-record 201,003 fans showed up on Saturday and it felt as if every one of them was along for the short walk from the clubhouse to No. 16.
The crowd thickened behind the grandstand of No. 16, hundreds snaking in a long line to get into the bleacher seats around the green – golf's mosh pit.
We started with a bird's-eye view of the hole from behind the tee, arriving just in time to hear 15,000 fans boo Mark Wilson for having the audacity to hit the ball 40 feet right of the hole – on the green.
Tough crowd. And everyone is game, as we found out.
''You need me in your panoramic,'' a guy hanging over the rail yelled as Burns took a photo down near the green.
Ignoring him did no good.
''I'm watching you!'' he screamed from just above our heads. ''Every step you take, every breath you make.''
The fans around Burns' stalker are among the most rambunctious on No. 16, shouting things like ''You won me money!'' when long putts fell, booing the slightest misstep.
They tossed a football from one section to another as if it was one big tailgate party, cascading jeers upon anyone who failed to make a catch.
A handful of volunteers raised ''Quiet please'' signs every time a player was about to hit a shot. Those worked about as well as the ''Slower traffic stay right'' signs on Interstate 10.
We didn't get to see a hole-in-one like Tiger Woods made in 1997 or one by a robot Wednesday, during a practice round. Still, there were quite a few near misses to get the crowd even more riled up – as if they needed it.
Charley Hoffman made a short birdie putt and threw the ball into the stands, setting off a Titleist feeding frenzy. Brian Harmon elicited one of the day's loudest roars by chipping in for birdie left of the green.
Billy Horschel was cheered when he hit one close and booed after missing the putt. He played along by covering his face as he walked off.
Up in the grandstand, it was hard to even tell a tournament was going on. Thousands of fans milled around the skyboxes, many facing away from the action or too far away to see it.
No matter. At golf's largest cocktail party, being seen in a sun dress and a floppy hat or a sports coat and high-in-the-front hair is a higher priority for some.
Bubba Watson changed that.
He was heckled relentlessly on Friday after making pre-tournament complaints about the course and the fans at No. 16 on Saturday rained boos upon him as he walked to the tee. Watson cupped his hand to his ear, raised his hands to get them to be louder and hit the ball around 20 feet to the right of the hole.
Still not good enough. Fans booed as Watson lined up his putt, cheered when he missed, booed again when he left for the next tee.
A few groups later, Ricky Fowler walked through the tunnel onto the tee as if he was a rock star taking the stage. He cupped his ear as a chant of ''Ricky!'' started, but they turned on him quickly, filling the stadium with catcalls after his tee shot rolled back into a bunker.
Normally, the final group would signal an end to the party. Not at the 16th hole.
Fans lingered in the skyboxes long after the last putt, still drinking and chattering as if the tournament was still going on down below.
An Anthony Michael Hall in ''Weird Science'' lookalike – apparently inebriated – seemed to think Burns and I were the perfect people to settle a bet for him.
''Do you know who Rory McIroy is?'' he slurred.
''Uh, yes?'' I answered before moving to another spot, out of shouting distance.
Finally, after about 90 minutes, a group of police officers made their way through the litter of cups and food wrappers to clear out the last of the still-rowdies.
''All right, everybody out,'' an officer said. ''Party's over.''
Only for the day. It revved up all over again for Sunday's final round.