HOLE HOG FANS MAKE THE 16TH AT PHOENIX THE MOST EXCITING SPOT ON TOUR

February 03, 1997

The most exciting hole on the PGA Tour isn't the best, the
toughest or even the prettiest. It's the loudest. Hearing is
believing, and the 16th hole at the Tournament Players Club at
Scottsdale is an earful. For 51 weeks a year, the 16th is like a
lot of other shortish, nondescript par-3s, but when the Phoenix
Open thunders through, it is transformed into Delta House.
Suddenly surrounded by 20,000 raucous fans, a startling number
of empty beer cans and a high-intensity wall of sound every time
anything happens--all a player has to do is step on the tee to
set off the crowd--the 16th becomes a major disturbance of the
peace.

"Just walking up, it's as loud as if you made an eagle at
Augusta," said Nick Price after he was given a rousing ovation
upon arriving at 16 during the third round. "That's the loudest
noise I've ever heard on a golf course." Not so fast, Nick. Less
than an hour later he was signing autographs near the clubhouse
when the Eruption occurred. That's when Tiger Woods, golf's
loudest player, made a hole in one at golf's loudest hole. The
Eruption was a stunning response to the pleading mantra intoned
by the fans milliseconds after each player launched his tee
shot: "Get in the ho-oooole!" they yelled. Tiger's ball did, and
the moment instantly became another date with destiny for the
kid, who nearly turned into a helicopter and took off with all
his arm whirling and fist pumping, a reaction that lifted the
noise to even greater decibels. The volume remained stuck on
high while Woods fixed his mark, picked his ball out of the cup
and whipped it into the crowd.

The 16th is where golf and a tailgate party collide. The
162-yard hole, which is guarded by several sinister bunkers, has
a large spectator mound behind the tee, is flanked by corporate
skyboxes and has bleachers and more mounds near the green. When
the fans pour in on the weekend, the hole is surrounded by
bodies. There they sit, drinking and cheering. And gambling. The
fans wager on everything and anything: Who's going to hit it
closest? Who's going to miss the green? Who's going to tip his
visor? The whooping starts when the players reach the tee and
barely stops while they hit their shots. As Tom Lehman was
getting ready to address his ball last Saturday, shouts of
"Tom-mee!" came from the crowd. But to back off the shot is to
invite more catcalls, so Lehman went ahead and hit, then grinned
in disbelief during the cascade of sound that followed.

"It all started with John Daly and now Tiger Woods," says
Brandel Chamblee. "Golf is so popular, it's bringing out people
who normally watch hockey or football or basketball. When you
hit a good shot, they go berserk--none of that polite 'Good
shot.' It's kind of an antigolf, against-the-establishment hole.
Their attitude is, We're here to get drunk and have a good time,
and you guys are the show."

Not all the players like that attitude. "It's a Happy Gilmore
mentality," says Dan Forsman. "Sometimes they affect the
players, and that's not fair."

Better get used to it. "This is where golf tournaments are
headed," says David Ogrin. "To be successful, they need to be a
social event. Sixteen is boisterous and obnoxious, and the
comments you hear there are usually moronic, but that doesn't
negate that it's fun to play in front of that many people."

There is no close second in the loudest hole category. The 17th
at Greensboro once held the distinction, but the fans there went
over the line, yelling during the players' backswings and
rooting against shots, so the sale of alcohol was eliminated in
the area. The Tour is closely monitoring the goings-on in
Scottsdale. "We've tried to tone it down," says Mark Russell, a
Tour official. "There are a lot of people having fun, and as
long as they aren't disturbing the players, we want them to have
fun."

There were signs around the hole last week that warned:
"[Tournament officials] reserve the right to eject any person
who engages in disruptive behavior interfering with golfers
and/or patrons." But they didn't spoil the party. When Scott
Gump reached 16, there were chants of "For-rest! For-rest!" When
Scott McCarron arrived, fans yelled, "Hey, MaCarena!" So
McCarron obliged, did a few steps and drew even louder cheers.

For sheer volume, however, the reaction to Woods's ace is the
standard by which all roars will be measured. "We don't need to
create hysteria out there," Forsman said. Then he smiled and
added, "But if I was a fan, that's where I'd go."

Who wouldn't? The traditionalists might not like it, but the
16th's a scream.

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Woods's ace got a 12-ounce tribute from the crowd. [Man picking up beer cans on golf course near spectators]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)