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Tour Leaves Wild, Wild West in Rear View Mirror

 SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. | And now back to our regular programming. Back to tournaments when marshals hold up one of those ‘QUIET’ signs there’s a chance somebody might respond. To tournaments when the sun goes down fans start to leave not continue to arrive.

   To tournaments where bad shots are not vocally derided and a porn queen’s name is not openly chanted.

   The PGA Tour is out of here, out the desert, out of the Wild West, out of Hawaii, California and most of all, with the wild-hare festivities that embellish – and, no, don’t embarrass – the Waste Management Phoenix Open, out of Arizona.

    But after this week, certainly not out of luck.

   Eldrick Woods? He made a hole-in-one here back in the last century, 1997 to be exact, but as much as the rowdy folks wouldn’t mind having him around, if he ever plays golf again, they get along without him very well.

   This year, as with every other tournament in 2010, no Tiger, but at Phoenix plenty of people, plenty of excitement and, plenty of competition among the newer guys, Brent Snedeker, Scott Piercy, Matt Every, Rickie Fowler and Camilo Villegas, and also some of the more mature guys, Mark Calcavecchia and Lee Janzen.

   Also, on the final morning, rain in the Valley of the Sun, skewing dreams of attendance records, this being the first time in recent years the Open didn’t conclude on Super Bowl Sunday. Just on the Sunday of the U.S.-Canada Olympic gold medal hockey final.

   Yes, they have the 16th hole at Phoenix, the par-3 ringed by double-decked stands seating something like 20,000, where beer flows and insults pour down.

      When Piercy went through Saturday, the crowd repetitively shouted, “Jenna Jameson, Jenna Jameson, Jenna Jameson.’’ Who? According to her website, “The Queen of Porn.’’

   “She went to the same high school as me,’’ said the 31-year-old Piercy, meaning Bonanza High in Las Vegas. “I think she’s older than me.’’  She is.

   Those people at 16 do their research.

   “Yes,’’ agreed Piercy, “they do. She’s not an old girlfriend. You know, they have fun.’’

   That’s the WM Phoenix Open, one gigantic party, where golf counts only to a degree. Among the locations highlighted on a course map of the TPC Scottsdale are the Tilted Kilt Beer Garden, the 18th Beer Garden, Salty Senorita, Paddy O’, Heineken sky boxes and most infamous of all, the Coors Light Birds Nest.

   Bands play at the Nest, which became so noisy it had to be shifted from the golf course to a site across Hayden Road. The Nest springs to life around 3 p.m., which led one woman to offer, “I just love the golf tournament. I go every night.’’

    Great amounts of people go every day. Announced attendance Friday was 101,709. Saturday, 121,221. That there was a drop of some 43,000 from 2009 had some people figuratively crying in their beer. As opposed to the actual laughter from the pros.

   “It was crazy,’’ Snedeker said of 16. “Take it with a grain of salt and realize golf needs that. We need people being excited at a  tournament. Good God, get over yourself and have some fun.’’

   Piercy, who for a second straight year began the last day a shot out of the lead – this time behind Snedeker, in 2009 behind winner Kenny Perry – loves the atmosphere.

    “It’s the one time,’’ he said, “you feel like a rock star.’’

    Not like a star rock, the boulder pushed aside in 1999 when Tiger’s ball landed behind it. That also was the year a fan was caught with a pistol in his fanny pack. The situation had reached the breaking point, and the tournament was in danger of being dropped. Now everything is in control, somewhat.

   “I don’t think it comes as a shock we’ve had some concerns, about, you know, pushing edge a little bit much,’’ was the observation of PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem.

    The setting allows the edge-pushing. There are acres of property adjacent to the course used for parking lots. There are cabs lined up seemingly from the Grand Canyon to Tucson. And even the cops are in a good mood.

    “This tournament is a hit for people who love golf that come out and watch,’’ said Mark Wilson, who shared the lead with Villegas after 36 holes. “But they’ve also made it a hit for people who don’t really follow golf and don’t care. It’s the place to be.’’

    Although sometimes a painful place to be.

    Joe Ogilvie was tied for the lead midway through the final round, but he remembers a Phoenix Open when the ball was going in the wrong direction. Standing over a shot on the tee at 16, almost afraid to swing, Ogilvie heard a voice scream, “Twelve over, Ogilvie? You suck.’’

    He broke up, which is better than breaking down.

    Mark Wilson said golfers who can’t handle harassment simply don’t show up.

   “Laugh at yourself a little bit,’’ said Wilson. “If you miss the green at 16, they should boo you, and you just go with it.’’

   Now the WM Phoenix Open has just gone. Wait ‘til next year.


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