The Loop

Dove Mountain's 15th hole the spot to be at the Match Play

February 19, 2014

MARANA, Ariz. -- Drivable par 4s are a staple of many PGA Tour courses. They're fun for fans to sit and watch as players are challenged as to how aggressive they want to be off the tee.

The 15th hole at Dove Mountain G.C. fits that bill and then some when you add the strategic nuances that come with match play. It was arguably the most interesting spot to watch the action Wednesday during the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, with a large hospitality tent to the right of the tee -- and all the accompanying distractions a hospitality tent offers -- providing as much entertainment as the action on the course.

Here were some of the highlights:

-- Rory McIlroy and Boo Weekley had almost a half hour wait on the tee as in front of them Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson both found the cacti off the tee. During the wait, the two got to talking about tennis, Weekley curious how good McIlroy had become at the sport  considering his fiancee, is one of the world's best female players. "I practiced about a half hour every day when I was home in the offseason," McIlroy said. Who thought a country guy from northern Florida and a kid from Northern Ireland would bond over tennis?

-- Weekley, after chatting a bit with the fans in the hospitality tent, pleased many by grabbing his driver. Hearing their approval, he deadpanned: "Well shoot, I ain't gonna get it up there on the green even if I picked it up and threw it." When his tee shot just cleared the fairway bunker, Weekley gave a big fist pump to the cheering crowd.


McIlroy edged Weekley, 3 and 2, during their first round match at Dove Mountain.           Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP

-- The 15th-hole captain, Dave Johnson, had his hands full with the rowdy fans in the tent. "I have at least four cell phones a group," Johnson said. "And they're sneaky about it. You yell at 'em and then they'll hide the thing and take it out again when you turn around."

The 78-year-old Johnson has been the hole captain for four years on No. 15, which had five marshals around the tee, and a volunteer at PGA Tour events in Tucson for 17 years. While there are some downsides to working the hole, he says he enjoys it: "It's where all the action is."

-- Aside from the incessant cell-phone photo snapping, there were loud whistles and spilled beer cans along the 15th tee. It wasn't quite the craziness you'll find when you go up I-10 to the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale, but they're in the same ballpark. McIlroy, 3 up in the match at the time, couldn't help but laugh as he observed it all while standing on the tee.

-- USGA rules expert Bernie Loehr came to Webb Simpson's assistance to help assess whether he could move some rocks around his ball. Some jumping cholla got stuck to Loehr's foot, so Simpson's caddie, Paul Tesori, used Simpson's wedge to try to scrape the thorns off his pants. Ten minutes later, Loehr still had some thorns stuck in there. "Good thing the cholla didn't jump too much," said Loehr.

-- Ahead in his match, McIlroy was still aggressive off the tee. His drive, however, sailed left of the green, hitting a spectator who in an attempt to dodge the incoming ball had fallen back into a cactus bush. In turn, the fan had the jumping cholla on his back as a souvenir. McIlroy would lose the hole, but eventually win the match, 3 and 2. No word though whether he, after  famously giving lodging and tickets to a fan at the British Open whom he hit with an errant shot, offered the fan at Dove Mountain a souvenir to go along with the thorns.

He joked he wanted to see who Butch would be rooting for in this case. "