FBR Open (Phoenix/Scottsdale) - One of a Kind on the PGA Tour

Text and Captions By Jeffrey A. Rendall; Photos By Jeff Janas


SCOTTSDALE, AZ – It seems that in every sport, there’s a playing venue that stands out from the rest.  For some it’s because of negative reasons – it’s old, rundown, outdated, poorly maintained.  For others, it’s the opposite – it’s state-of-the-art, steeped in tradition, a great place to play and a treat for the fans.


And still others are known for something unique.  Not necessarily worse, not necessarily better, but when you think of that place, you’ll instantly recognize where you’re at.  That’s why there’s a home field advantage – for those familiar with playing there, they’re going to have an edge.


Such is true for the PGA Tour’s annual stop in Scottsdale (near Phoenix), Arizona for the FBR Open (played at the TPC Scottsdale).  The FBR Open is usually played on Super Bowl weekend, which puts it up against the Super Bowl pre-game show, yet its ratings are always solid, and its attendance is the highest on Tour, year after year.


Needless to say, the golfers enjoy the tournament, as it continually draws a solid field of highly ranked players every season.  The weather’s usually nice, though there’re often frost delays in the mornings.  And the TPC Scottsdale, as is true of most PGA Tour venues, is a very beautifully done, appropriate setting.


But the truly ‘unique’ feature of the FBR Open is its crowd behavior.  It’s so unusual that ABC’s Golf hosts Curtis Strange and Mike Tirico used airtime to openly debate the merits of the raucous gallery surrounding the par three 16th hole.  Tirico said it’s fun to have thousands of fans ‘participating’ after every shot hit on the hole (they even boo poor shots).  Strange said it’s fine for that hole, but the noise is disconcerting to players on the surrounding holes and throughout the golf course.


This year, for example, the 16th hole crowd sang ‘You’ve lost that loving feeling’ to ABC on-course commentator Judy Rankin, after an alcohol emboldened member of the crowd came down and proposed to her on the tee box between groups (Rankin’s husband was in the stands, so no harm done.)


Strange also said it’s fine… once a year.


The players have been there before, and they know what to expect.  But it’s a good thing that life returns to ‘normal’ after this experience, with no more ‘waves’ done by the spectators, and gallery participation returns to (mostly) polite applause.


Whatever the merits of the rowdy gallery, Phoenix is known as a great place to watch a tournament.  And as photographer Jeff Janas discovered, it’s a great place to shoot pictures of some of golf’s greatest players.  Here’s a sampling of what he captured:

You've just escaped the rowdy 16th hole, but the massive galleries don't get any smaller at the tee of the short par four 17th hole.

Stewart Cink shows good form in getting the ball close to tap-in range in this shot.

Vijay Singh continued his streak of top 10 finishes here. Last year's winner, he seems to thrive in the environment - that's what an unflappable demeanor gets you.

Mark Calcavecchia set or tied seven PGA Tour scoring records in 1998 when he won the tournament. The course has been lengthened since, but still yields some low scores.

South Africa's Retief Goosen was yet another world top 10 player making an appearance. He's another player with a steady demeanor who would do well here.

Local favorite Phil Mickelson held the second round lead and was one back after 54 holes - but I'm sure his tie for seventh at the end was not where he wanted to finish.

Lee Janzen doesn't wear a golf glove - good thing the weather's warm enough in the west in the early part of the year to allow him to go without one.

The par five 15th hole's green is small enough. If you're distracted by the next hole's rowdy gallery on your approach shot, you might end up dropping and practically standing in the water.

Eventual winner Jonathan Kaye leads the march to the green on the 16th hole - Phil Mickelson and the TV folks in tow.

Saturday's scoreboard tells it all - forget the scores, look at the nearly 150,000 attendance figure. The FBR Open is one of a kind.


The FBR Open

TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Arizona.


Purse:  $4 million.

Winner’s share:  $936,000.

2004 Winner:  Jonathan Kaye.

Winning Score:  266.

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