The Greatest Saturday In Golf: 2020 Waste Management Open In Phoenix

The Famous 16th Hole Stadium At TPC Scottsdale Is A Show Unto Itself At The Waste Management Phoenix Open - Image Courtesy YouTube

By Alfie Lau

Security officials said the line-up started at 1 a.m. Saturday. And since the gates to the TPC Scottsdale for the third round of the 2020 Waste Management Open wouldn’t open until 7 a.m., that meant six hours of hearty celebration, anticipation and planning for when the Running of the Phoenicians to the coveted seats at the 16th hole would commence.

Veterans know the best route is through the underpass, behind the 18th green and then a quick left so you go down the right side of the 10th fairway. Just past the 10th green, another 50 yards away, is the first entrance into the backside of 16. Run another 150 yards and you get to the entrance for seats closer to the tee box.

Rookies, and there are still many, go through the underpass, but are tempted to take the first quick left, going down the left side of the 18th fairway, but unless they possess Usain Bolt-like speed, they are running almost double the distance, as they must run the entire length of the 18th and then most of the 17th before reaching the backside of 16.

When the gates opened just before 7 a.m. – the bulls must have convinced security that there would be no safety incidents after being on their best behavior for the better part of six hours – so began the anarchy and if you weren’t in your seat by 7:30, you were in an endless line to get in.

At 9:30, the line to get into the bleachers had not moved one iota and with the first tee time at 9:04 a.m., there would be no golfers coming through there until just past 10:30 a.m. And so it was that Matt Kuchar, Grayson Murray and Sungjae Im came through the tunnel to thunderous applause, no doubt due to Kuchar hitting first after making two consecutive birdies.

Kuchar may or may not have been subjected to some taunts about his past incident with a Mexican caddy, but he still made par and the 16th hole denizens took a 15-minute break before the marquee second group came through. Featuring fan favourite Rickie Fowler, lightning rod Bryson DeChambeau and the underrated Kevin Tway, there were three decidedly different reactions.

Tway hit quickly, with almost nobody noticing. DeChambeau was applauding the crowd but that didn’t stop the crazies from reminding DeChambeau that he isn’t the fleetest of golfers. And Fowler was pumping up the crowd for more applause even when the marshalls put up their Quiet signs. Later in the afternoon, when Canadian Adam Hadwin made his way through the 16th hole, the Canadians who lined up at or around 1 a.m. serenaded the Abbotsford native with a rendition of O' Canada before Hadwin made par, narrowly missing a 9-foot birdie putt. But that didn’t stop Hadwin from going into his golf bag and tossing a handful of Callaway ball caps to his Canadian comrades.

Corey Conners came within 10 inches of making an ace at 16 before tapping in for birdie en route to an even par round of 71. These were the sights you won’t see on television coverage of the Waste Management Open, where an actual golf tournament is taking place. 

Fan favourite Tony Finau, who made a birdie at the 16th en route to a round of 62, enters the final round at (-16), a stroke ahead of Webb Simpson, who shot 64 a day after shooting 63 and now sits at (-15). Third round leader JB Holmes, along with Hudson Swafford, are another stroke back at (-14), with Xander Schauffele, Scott Piercy and Adam Long another stroke back at (-13).

It wasn’t a red letter day for Canadians, as Hadwin is 11 strokes back at (-5) after a (+1) round of 72, and Conners and Nick Taylor, playing together Saturday, each carded even par rounds of 71 and at (-2), are 14 strokes behind Finau. For the third consecutive day, a golfer made an ace at TPC Scottsdale. On Thursday, Holmes aced the 4th, while on Friday, Piercy aced the 7th. On Saturday, Simpson brought the crowd to its feet on the 12th with his ace to pull into a temporary tie for the lead.

Perhaps not coincidentally, a chest of free beer has appeared in the media centre each of the three nights. Also of note is a not totally surprising retirement. Former world amateur No. 1 Colt Knost missed the cut by one on Friday night and shortly thereafter announced he was done professional golf for good. Beset by a recurring wrist injury, Knost had no more tournaments to earn 322 FedEx points and had to win in Scottsdale to retain his PGA TOUR playing privileges. Fortunately for Knost, he is already hosting a radio show, which he will now do full-time.

Knost’s final round was alongside Jamie Lovemark, who also had a noted amateur career, and another former World Amateur No. 1, Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor. Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open promises to be a quieter day than Saturday simply because many sports fans are readying for the Super Bowl, which kicks off in the late afternoon.

Golf tournament organizers try to have this tournament end approximately 30 minutes before the Big Game starts, but from 2016-18, there were extra hole playoffs, with Hideki Matsuyama winning the first two and Gary Woodland in 2018 before Rickie Fowler won in regulation last year and saved many Super Bowl parties from starting late.

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