Co-leader Kevin Sutherland doesn’t know much about cactus, but he’s learning after Thursday’s opening round of the FBR Open.
Sutherland, whose drive on the 13th hole at the TPC Scottsdale — his fourth hole of the day — settled near a cholla, called in a rules official to see if he could attach a towel to his leg to protect himself from the needles. No problem, said the official, except that Sutherland’s 9-iron broke off at impact when it hit the cactus.
“I was shocked. I was so worried about my leg, it never occurred to me the club was going to break,’’ said Sutherland, whose 6-under-par 65 was good enough for a share of the clubhouse lead with Charles Warren.
Needing the 9-iron, Sutherland borrowed the rules official’s cell phone and called the PING factory, which is located in northwest Phoenix. Six holes later, a representative from PING delivered the new 9-iron.
What was perhaps even more unbelievable was the broken 9-iron led to a birdie at No. 13, and the new 9-iron immediately led to a birdie at No. 1.
And the moral to the story?
“Break your club in Phoenix so you get a 9-iron in six holes from PING,’’ Sutherland quipped.
Phil Mickelson wasn’t thrilled with his start during Thursday’s opening round . But he liked the finish.
“I drove it in the water on 13, and that was a penalty shot. Then at 15, I laid up and hit a poor shot in the bunker and didn’t get up and down, just a poor swing,’’ said Lefty, who bogeyed both par 5s on the back nine — where he started his day — but still managed to rally for a 3-under 68.
“Fortunately, I was able to turn it around. I made a birdie on 17, and had a good stretch on 1, 2 and 3, where I went birdie, birdie, eagle, and that was the round right there.’’
Even though the weather was brisk, with a high of only 60 degrees, a record crowd for a Thursday — 83,657 fans — showed up for the opening round.
The sea of humanity at the TPC Scottsdale was slightly larger than the previous standard of 78,864 fans set in 2005.
For the week, it pushed the crowd count to 170,858 fans despite only 4,947 showing up on Monday due to inclement weather. There still is a long way to go if the tournament is to break the all-time record of 536,767 fans set in 2006.
Charles Warren, who shares the clubhouse lead with Kevin Sutherland after a bogey-free 65, said it was “really, really cold’’ when his group was warming up on the range and the wind started to blow.
“We actually got a break, being second-to-last off (9 a.m.),’’ he said. “Once the sun got up it was fine. But early going, it was definitely a challenge to kind of get your body to feel right.’’
Warren said he’s looking forward to his afternoon tee time today. Even though there was a 30-minute frost delay on Thursday that will keep him from possibly finishing today, “You just deal with it.’’
How cold was it Thursday morning in Scottsdale? Even after a 30-minute frost delay, some of the players were putting their golf ball on iced-over greens.
Brian Gay, who was among the leaders at 66, was in the third group out on the back nine, and when he got to his third hole, he saw it hadn’t totally recovered from a chilly night.
“I hit a great bunker shot and the green was actually still frozen,’’ Gay said. “My ball landed on a hump and it hit and it rolled 20 feet.’’
Woody Austin, known for his Aquaman performance at last year’s President’s Cup, said the only thing his 15 minutes of fame has got him is a lot of heckling.
“They scream, 'Stay out of the water, it’s cold!’ or 'Where’s your goggles, Woody?’ ’’ explained Austin, who opened with a 68. “But I don’t care.
“They got two inches of snow back home in Wichita (Kan.), so I’m just happy to be here this week.’’
MAGEE’S BIG BREAK
He’s not in the field this week, but Andrew Magee was making the rounds at the TPC Scottsdale on Thursday, talking with players and getting pumped up about his new role on The Golf Channel as the co-host of the upcoming “Big Break VIII: Kaanapali.’’
“We filmed it, but I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know if I look like a total dweeb or not,’’ said Magee.