Welcome to the scariest hole in golf

Boozy abuse from 20,000 fans makes the 16th at Scottsdale the one they all fear. No wonder Tiger stayed away, writes James Corrigan

Saturday 27 February 2010 01:00

Justin Rose missed a six-footer on Thursday and waited for the abuse to rain down. It only arrived in a trickle. "I had a fortunate escape," reflected the Englishman, who with a 65 had otherwise enjoyed a fine first day of the Waste Management Open. "If that happens on the weekend it would be like Wayne Rooney missing a penalty at Goodison. Only louder."

Rose's yanked tiddler came at the 16th at Scottsdale in Arizona. At 162 yards it is far from being the toughest hole in golf; but thanks to the 20,000 "refreshment freaks" who surround the par-three it is arguably the scariest. Aaron Baddeley probably summed up its uniqueness best of all. "It's the shortest, easiest most intimidating hole in the world," said the Australian.

To some it just isn't golf. The crowd who congregate there boo as loudly as they cheer and as loudly as they sing their songs. They try to keep quiet on a player's backswing. But by the Sunday they fail abysmally. At these moments it less like the Old Course and more like the New Den. Yes, for one hole and one week only, the golfers suddenly know what it feels like in other sports.

"Walking to the tee is kind of like seeing a police car in your rear view mirror, and you don't know if they're after you or not," is Joe Durant's fine analogy. "If you're lucky and the police car roars by, you can take a deep breath." Alas, more often than not the golfers are pulled over.

Little surprise, therefore, that many in this privileged profession elect to stay away from the Phoenix stopover on the PGA Tour. "You listen to the young kids in the locker room and a lot of them don't come here because of that hole," said the veteran Kenny Perry. "They won't play here because they don't want people yelling at them."

It isn't any old yelling, either, although depressingly the "get in the holes" and "you da mans" do ring out every now and again. Predominantly, however, the chants are tailored for particular individuals and are as creative as those of their terrace counterparts. "Somehow," said the 2003-winner, Jonathan Kaye, "they know more than everybody. They know your birthday. They know your kids' names. They know your dog's name. I don't know how they find out all that stuff. But they do."

Not all of it is that good-natured and it is probably a good thing Tiger Woods is not playing this week. The world No 1 actually caused the loudest roar ever heard there when holing-in-one in 1997. But Woods has not turned up since 2001 and after the organisers sought to increase the atmosphere still further by making it the first genuine "stadium" hole two years ago with seating going all the way around, it is doubtful he ever will again.

Still that won't worry the assorted band of students and office-workers who arrive there in record numbers. Some 500,000-plus are expected by Sunday evening and most will visit the 16th and its bars. The event has attracted new sponsors this year, but even that has been given the fans treatment. It has already been renamed "The Wasted Open".

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