I hung out with 191,000 close friends last week.
We could have fit a lot more.
It was the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, a tournament that regularly draws six-figure crowds to TPC Scottsdale. I went there expecting about 125,000 and was shocked to hear that it was more than 50 percent higher.
The reason for my surprise: I never felt crowded. I regularly was able to walk right up to the ropes at tees and greens. When a pro hit a wayward shot, I could stand right behind him as he tried to extricate his ball from trouble. There were many, many holes where we walked along with no one near us.
And then it came to me: Golf is the only sport where you can have a front-row seat without paying extra.
Think about it.
You want to sit in the front row at a baseball game? It will cost well into the hundreds of dollars.
Floor seats at an NBA game? Holy cow – we could be talking into the thousands.
Right behind the bench at an NHL game? Same thing.
And the NFL? Well, you don’t want to sit in the front row because you can’t see as much, but primo seats on the 50-yard line are going to cost a lot of pennies, pretty and otherwise.
The beauty of a golf tournament is that you can pick a spot or you can roam, and if you venture far enough out you have a multitude of viewing choices. But no matter where you go, you usually can get within a few yards of the action.
You can be right there as the player discusses the shot with his caddie.
You can see exactly what he sees as he lines it up – the angle to the green, the opening through the trees, the quality of the lie.
You can get so close, you can hear the contact of club to ball, even on the green.
And then you can get a clear picture of how strong and coordinated and magical these pros are.
How often have you been able to do that when you’ve been a spectator at another sports event? Ever?
This week, the pros will be at Pebble Beach. And Spyglass Hill. And Monterey Peninsula. Three courses for the price of one, and the AT&T doesn’t draw nearly as many people as the Phoenix Open does.
That means one simple thing: You shouldn’t have any trouble getting a closeup look at a lot of shots.
Go out to the ocean holes at Spyglass or MPCC. Turn around and look for whales when you’re not watching the action right in front of you.
And even if you go to Pebble, which tends to be more crowded, you still can find good perches on holes 6 through 10 – all on the water.
Sure, there will be big crowds around the big names. It’s always that way.
Sure, the most famous and popular holes, such as No. 18 at Pebble, will have loads of people.
But that’s about it for movement challenges.
It’s your call – you can get there early and seek out the big names or the big holes, or you can have a different strategy that won’t leave you crowded out.
And that’s the point: You have a choice.
It’s just one more thing to love about our great game. I love watching it on TV, but being there is that much better.
The great atmosphere … the fun, full day … and the wide-open spaces. What are you waiting for? More room?