Mario, Minions and streaking mayhem: A weekend at the wildest hole in golf
SEQUENCE – WRONG Let’s clear this up first. It’s boorish, infantile and always ends badly. However, sometimes there is a legend who pulls out a marathon streak so incredible, so filled with performance and so in keeping with all the sleazy drunken gestalt of his place – the 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the only completely closed hole on the PGA Tour, also known as the Colosseum is a reminder to us why rules are meant to be broken.
On Friday, he showed up somewhere near the teeing ground, naked except for his trunks, with “HOLE 19” written on his back and an arrow pointing down, and then he charged right down the middle of the fairway as if he had been slapped. iron 9 through a manicured cactus garden, 180 yards to goblet. He had already defied the odds, but then snatched the pin from the hole and performed something like a kneeless lap dance. He dropped it low, brought it back, dropped it low, brought it back. The stands, packed since 7 am, were eager for their Maximus. Finally one guard came out of his stupor, but the streaker slipped past him and into the players’ tunnel to the 17th hole, where we all assumed that the Scottsdale police had conned him.
Except, of course, that no one outside of the Colosseum knew what he had just done, and the fact is that the dude in the swimming trunks seamlessly blends into that particular golf hole. He continued to run. All the way down the 17th fairway, half way down the 18th, then jumped into the pond and enjoyed a short refreshing dip, danced on the giant WM logo in the water, and then finally, when he was good and ready, he turned himself in to the authorities. So yes, the stripe is wrong, let’s be clear about that. But here on the 16th hole in Waste Management – and maybe only here at 16 – it would be wrong if someone Not band.
HOLE 16 in Waste Management, as the locals actually call this tournament, that or WM, it looks like an oasis of Coors Light in the southwest of the desert. It’s a total anomaly on the PGA Tour, the only place where whispers of golf and worthy applause are washed down into a port-a-pot, replaced by undignified trolling and ambitious cosplay. Over the past quarter century, the 16th has cemented its reputation as the “greatest grass party”. This is golf in the happiest Gilmore.
Before players enter the Colosseum through the tunnel from 15th Lawn, they are greeted by a cheerful sign on the front that says “Welcome to the Loudest Hole on Earth”, but it’s more of a warning. The 16th hole at World Championship golf is the perfect place in golf to take the throw of a lifetime, as Sam Ryder did last year when he became only the 10th player to ever ace the hole. three tiers of luxury suites and grandstands on every corner. But it might be the worst hole in the world to drop one into a sand trap. (There are four sand traps for 16.)
“Guys would be lying if they told you they don’t think about 16 before they get there,” Ryder said ahead of this year’s tournament. He compared the environment to Duke’s Cameron Stadium – hostile fans right above you, so close you can smell their beer breath looming and swirling overhead. “You can’t stop thinking about it. You can hear it from anywhere on the golf course. You know it’s coming.”
No one in this tournament has a more useless job than the guys holding the PLEASE QUIET signs on the 16th hole. You can’t silence drunk people in stupid costumes. They came here on purpose to be incorrigible. Golf generally doesn’t make silly costumes – most fans tend to show up dressed like players – but 16-year-old creatures in the stands are an exception. Founding Fathers in spiky white wigs. Royal Canadian mountains. Prison inmates. Seven gnomes. A group of college bros from the University of Southern California dressed as a bunch of bananas. A bunch of college bros from Pittsburgh dressed up as a minion army plus the GRU. A group of college students from Minnesota dressed as the Mario brothers – Mario and Luigi, who were in bad shape, and Wario, the representative of the group. (“Good luck,” a woman nearby warned as I approached them. “I don’t think Luigi can find the words.”) So many people dressed head to toe in waste management green—WM pants, WM blazers, blazers w.m. ties, the entire WM capsule collection. At least one jersey for every player who has ever played for the Eagles or Chiefs. The fans in front went off the track before 4am to take these places when it was below 50 degrees, very windy and dark, so they had little choice but to drink heavily.
That’s why the morning hours are when the 16-hole grandstands are most active – before the desert heat turns their brains into soup. They are already broken, but still sharp, brazen and full of destructive energy. They boo every bad shot. Imagine how demoralizing it must be to be interrupted at 7:42 in the morning. Golf is already tough enough. And drunk people are very fickle. After a well-placed T-shirt shot early Friday morning, Ricky Fowler was greeted with shouts of “Big Fucking Rick!” which he confirmed with the shy tip of his stick, but then on the green he hit a helpless shot far from the hole, and immediately the stands jumped on him and turned the “big” cheer into a “little” mockery. Sometimes they turned over during one shot. Tom Kim’s approach in the second round caused a roar as he landed a few feet from the cup…then turned into a vicious BOOOOOO when the ball rolled off the field to the edge.
I can’t really share many of the things you hear in the stands at 16 because it’s a Disney company, but suffice it to say that the locals will take every opportunity to point out anything phallic or sexual. golf. In fact, no one received more applause all weekend than the greengrocer, whose job it was to dig up the morning’s pin placement by pumping a two-foot cylindrical tool into the ground.
But they also have moments of diabolical brilliance as 16 earns its reputation as not only the greatest grass party, but a hole so scary that many professional golfers skip the tournament entirely because of it. As the sun rose behind the stands on Friday and John Rahm, who was playing collegiate golf on the road in Tempe, Arizona, was lining up a birdie shot, the fans noticed the sun casting their shadows on the lawn, right between them. Ram’s six-foot path to the hole, so they started waving their arms frantically to create a craziness of shadow on the line of his eyes. It looked like he was putting out a forest fire. Naturally missed. What’s more, Ram was still finishing his first round due to freezing conditions on Thursday morning, which meant lucky! — he will have to return again in 16 before sunset. Two turns on the floor of the Colosseum in one day.
FOR THE FOURTH TIME in their overlapping histories, the Super Bowl and Waste Management were held on the same weekend in the Phoenix area—the biggest televised sporting event in America compared to the biggest grass party, separated by just 40 miles of urban backbone—and according to locals, at least 16th remains undefeated. The Super Bowl is one of those wishlist items that turns out to be more fun to cross off than to watch in person. This made-for-TV event is more airless than you’d expect, live, with no equivalent of bleaching creatures. The Super Bowl also lacks a sense of humor; the security at the University of Phoenix stadium would have crushed this streaker immediately. You have to give credit to this chump, he knew which party to go to.
The biggest party on grass gains momentum throughout the week, peaking on Saturday when around 20,000 people make it through the 16th hole alone and nearly 300,000 people fill the course. Local Phoenix Stars come out on Saturday. Chris Paul and Devin Booker of the NBA, as well as WNBA star Brittney Griner, have appeared near the field for the T-shirt this year (although they were smart enough to stay away from the stands). The hype around the hole gets more serious on Sunday – after all, $20 million is at stake, a huge boost from $6 million last year after the PGA named WM one of its eight “super tournaments.” The promotion of the tournament was enough to lift Rory McIlroy to 16 for only the second time in his career. (He made it through all four attempts.) Also, these fans hard all week, and there are Super Bowl parties to chill out. Sunday – A drunker-than-usual brunch.
But as Thursday bleeds into Friday and Friday bleeds into Saturday, crowds are increasingly showing up dressed for the party. A man named Tommy Elliot, whom I met in one of the fancy skyboxes, was here with friends for his 40th birthday and he flew in from Luxembourg, where he had just moved from Hong Kong. He could have traveled anywhere in the world to celebrate his big 4-0 score, and he chose the Greater Phoenix area to fulfill his dream of testing the 16th hole at Waste Management. “This is the top,” he told me. “It’s been on my agenda for a long, long time.” So far it has lived up to expectations. He has a great video with a streaker. “I mean how can you No know about the 16th hole?”
16th place at the World Cup was one of the sport’s most iconic placements for 25 years, but it was pretty much a golfing phenomenon until Ryder hit one in the third round last year – and its tumultuous aftermath — poured the secret into the public domain. Ryder ended up finishing 23rd, seven shots behind tournament winner Scotty Sheffler, but let’s be honest. Sam Ryder became the winner of the tournament.
“It was like a power outage,” Ryder said days before returning to Phoenix for the 2023 event. “I don’t really remember my caddy jumping on me” – it did happen – “but one of the things I do remember is that my lip was trembling, like, out of control.” The TV cameras were right…