SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (Reuters) - With Tiger Woods and the Super Bowl both back in town, Brandt Snedeker feels as if he is at the center of the sporting world as he prepares to compete in this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.
The PGA Tour event already boasts the noisiest hole in golf and the electricity is likely to be at an all-time high with record crowds expected at the TPC Scottsdale where former world number one Woods will be making his first start of the season.
“As a player, you do come here with more energy and there’s always a lot more people here than at other PGA Tour events,” Snedeker told Reuters after playing in the pro-am competition on a sun-splashed Wednesday in the Arizona desert.
“With Tiger playing and the Super Bowl in town, there’s definitely a lot more eyes on this place this week. It’s a lot of fun.
“You love being in the center of the sports world for a little bit and that’s kind of what we are this week. It’s a great feeling, both as a golfer and as a fan.”
Snedeker, a six-times winner on the PGA Tour who was FedExCup champion in 2012, has played in eight Phoenix Opens and has always relished the raucous atmosphere at the par-three 16th.
Thousands of spectators cram into the grandstands and sky boxes surrounding the 163-yard hole and they loudly boo any golfer who fails to hit the green off the tee.
“Sixteen has always been crazy and whether the Super Bowl is here or not, they (the fans) always get out pretty early ... especially on a day like today when the weather is perfect,” Snedeker said.
Woods, back at the Phoenix Open for the first time in 14 years, played two groups ahead of Snedeker in Wednesday’s pro-am and by the time he reached the 16th hole, the bleachers and sky boxes were crammed full.
Deafening roars greeted Woods as he stepped to the tee and loud boos rang out after his nine-iron shot drifted left and ended up in a bunker.
The ‘Tiger factor’ has already been felt at Scottsdale where the tournament gained more than $200,000 extra ticket sales on Jan. 9, when Woods announced his commitment.
Woods, limited to nine tournaments worldwide last year due to back issues, will tee off in Thursday’s opening round with American ‘young guns’ Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth.
Editing by Gene Cherry