Rowdy scene at 16th will test field at FBR

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. --- Golfers speak in reverent tones about Augusta National Golf Club's Amen Corner or the Road Hole at St. Andrews.

They use different terms to describe TPC Scottsdale's signature 16th Hole: Crazy. Obnoxious. Nerve-racking.

"There's only one place on earth, one hole on earth like that," Camilo Villegas said.

The 16th Hole could be even rowdier this year at the FBR Open. The par-3, 162-yard hole has been fully enclosed with grandstands seating between 15,000 and 20,000 spectators.

"It looks unbelievable, but it's going to be a circus," said Pat Perez, coming off his first PGA Tour victory in last week's Bob Hope Classic. "But it looks cool. It looks really cool, full-stadium effect. It's going to be loud."

For today's opening round, the crowd at the 16th might be larger -- and noisier -- than the 17,000-plus expected to attend tonight's NBA game between the Phoenix Suns and the San Antonio Spurs in downtown Phoenix.

"To have that type of environment that NBA players or football players experience, for us as golfers to be able to experience it is pretty cool," said local resident Phil Mickelson, who won the event in 1996 and 2005 and lost to J.B. Holmes in a playoff last year.

Enfolded by an erector-set grandstand rising from the desert floor, the 16th Hole looks like nothing else on the PGA Tour.

Players enter through a long, dark tunnel, blinking as they step into a sun-splashed arena. Two-story corporate boxes -- there are 146 skyboxes in all -- wrap around the tee box. A grandstand banks away from the right side of the green, with more skyboxes squeezing in on the left. A 969-square-foot video board rises above the seats.

"It's nerve-racking, that hole," Perez said. "Everyone keeps saying it's the loudest hole in golf, and everyone is crazy and everyone does this, so everyone continues to do more every year to make it as loud and obnoxious as possible."

The venue was half-filled for Wednesday's pro-am, but many fans were warming up for the tournament, hooting when tee shots went awry.

"The fans are crazy," Villegas said. "I know there's a lot of alcohol being served there."

GINN RESORTS PULLS ALL SPONSORSHIPS

Ginn Resorts is ending all golf sponsorships, giving two tournaments an uncertain future.

The real estate company says it no longer will play host to or produce its two remaining events: the LPGA's Ginn Open and the Champions Tour Ginn Championship. It's also dropping its sponsorship of Cristie Kerr, the last player wearing the company's apparel.

"This wasn't something that was done lightly," said Robert Gidel, Ginn's president and CEO. "We got to a point where we had to give up on hope as a strategy.

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