SCOTTSDALE — It turns out there’s a secret to how to deal with the mayhem of the infamous 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale, where the sights and sounds at this week's Waste Management Phoenix Open will range from the hilarious to the X-rated.
The pro tip? Play a tournament alongside Tiger Woods.
Sure, embracing the boisterous fans or simply letting the rambunctiousness roll off your back helps. But really, nothing beats walking inside the ropes with the game’s biggest decibel generator.
Tom Hoge played with Woods in the final round of last week’s Farmers Insurance Open, where both were in contention for parts of the day. Hoge shot 68 to tie for fifth, while Woods carded a 70 to tie for ninth.
On Thursday in the Arizona desert, Hoge was even better, opening with a 65 that included a birdie on the 16th. He’s tied for fourth just four strokes off the lead of Wyndham Clark.
Woods, who isn’t in the field, was with Hoge in spirit, while the spirits were being consumed at 16.
“I played with Tiger on Sunday last week and just to have that energy and excitement out there it’s a blast,” Hoge said. “I played well here last year—on Saturday I was one of the later groups, so I got to experience all the craziness there on the back nine. So it’s fun and just try to welcome it and play well.”
Hoge isn’t alone in the sentiment.
Jon Rahm, who went to Arizona State and lives nearby, is a popular figure every year at the Phoenix Open. But playing alongside Woods, not to mention against him in the Ryder Cup, is good prep for whatever distractions he’ll have to deal with at 16 at TPC Scottsdale.
“If you get to play with him like I did at Augusta and at Torrey Pines, that was a pretty good way to practice it,” he said. “More than the crowd and the cheers, it’s some of the noises you might hear, cameras or off timing, but that’s about it. You can’t really get ready for it. You just have to experience it and learn from it.”
Rahm managed just fine. He made par on 16 and shot an opening 67.
It was a good start. The crowd and the pressure will continue to mount as the week goes on, though. Friday and Saturday are typically the most raucous two days of the event.
So there’s another piece of advice from Rahm that should come in handy.
“You can’t replicate this anywhere, and you can’t really get ready for it,” Rahm said. “So all you can do is try to stay as calm as possible early on.”