The FBR Open in Scottsdale Arizona is famed for the huge crowds it attracts. In 2006 the FBR Open set a PGA Tour single day attendance record with over 168,000 fans on the Saturday. The event also holds the tournament week attendance record at 536,367. Many of the fans make their way to the stadium-style par 3 16th hole. When Tiger Woods made a hole-in-one here back in 1997, the roar of the crowd could be heard 10 miles away.
The tournament was known as the Phoenix Open until Friedman Billings Ramsey (an investment bank) took over sponsorship in 2003. Over the years there have been some notable winners of the event – Arnold Palmer won three in a row in the early 1960s, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Sandy Lyle have also lifted the title.
Last year, big-hitting JB Holmes defeated the crowd favourite, Phil Mickelson, on the first hole of a sudden death playoff to win the title for a second time.
Venue: TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona
Date: January 29 – Feb 1
Course stats: par 71, 7,216 yards
Purse: $6,000,000 Winner: $1,080,000
Defending champion: JB Holmes (-14)
Thursday 29 – Live on Setanta Golf from 8pm
Friday 30 – Live on Setanta Golf from 8pm
Saturday 31 – Live on Setanta Golf from 8pm
Sunday 1 – Live on Setanta Golf from 8pm
Phil Mickelson – The Arizona State alumni is the crowd’s favourite in this event. He won in 1996 and again in 2005. He’ll be looking to kick-start his season here.
Zach Johnson – He’s one of the form players on the PGA Tour at the moment following victory in the Sony Open. Look out for him again this week.
JB Holmes – It’s difficult to discount the monster-hitting Kentuckian. He won in 2006 and again last year – the course clearly suits his game.
Key hole: 11th. The 469 yard par 4 ranked as the most difficult on the course in the 2008 tournament. There’s a lake along the entire left hand side of the hole and a huge bunker protects the front of the green. The average score on this hole in 2008 was 4.2.
Skills required: Concentration. With the huge throngs of boisterous fans swarming along the edges of the fairways it’s easy to become distracted. The man who wins will either harness the crowd’s energy or have his blinkers firmly secured.