Friday, June 6, 2008

Mickelson-Woods Pairing: Logistical Nightmare?

Steve Elling seems to think that is awfully possible with the Woods-Mick-Scott threesome at the Open.

With perhaps 40,000 fans on the course, it's a safe bet that 30,000 will be following the Mickelson-Woods pairing. By the way, their third is Adam Scott, who draws a decent throng himself. It's going to be five deep along the gallery ropes and kids or anybody under 5-feet-6 will have zero chance of seeing anything except the waxed back hair of the guy standing in front of them.

The potential pitfalls are plentiful. Because Torrey Pines is one of the most poorly designed courses ever to host an Open with regard to hole routing, there's going to be more gridlock on the front nine than there will be on Interstate 5, the main artery leading to the course. The second green and third tee box are separated by about 10 yards, with a cart path running between them. They are in such close proximity, players have to time their tee shots on the third hole to be struck when players aren't putting on the second green.

That's not even the half of it, really. To reach the sixth tee from the fifth green, players walk across the middle of the third hole. To reach the ninth green, players walk across the middle of the 18th fairway.

What are the fans supposed to do in order to keep up? Stomp one another, probably.
That is taking it awfully far, especially when one considers that the 16th at the FBR Open has approximately 100,000 fans on that single hole at any one time. No one seems to really be complaining about that. I do get his point, though, about moving along the course. After all, if the 30,000 or so fans that Elling projects follow behind this group through three and nine, then they will cause a major wait for players on those holes. Then again, that happens already at some PGA Tour events with thousands of fans waiting until tee shots are hit to scurry across fairways.

Elling does raise the good point about the seaside cliffs on many holes that will limit space for spectators. Still, though, Elling is making the assumption that fans are lemmings and will follow the pairing to every hole. If they are smart, they will only pick certain holes to view the players. In my experience, it is best to view Woods and/or Mickelson for 6 holes in an entire round. If you move a few holes ahead of them and wait for other groups to come through, you will get 6 great looks at them. That would be as great as one could expect.

Also, I don't expect 40,000 fans on the course at once.


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