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Rob Lee blogs on fervent fans, Tiger Woods' struggles and Juan Mata

Rob Lee - Rob Lee Posted 29th January 2014 view comments

The Waste Management Phoenix Open is a very unique event.

The 16th hole at TPC of Scottsdale, where fans cheer and boo at volume, is bizarre and very fun to watch, while half a million people pile through the gates.

The atmosphere is terrific and reminds me of the reception you used to get during Irish Opens at Portmarnock and Royal Dublin, when loads of supporters turned up.

People power: swarms of fans turn up at the Waste Management Phoenix Open

People power: swarms of fans turn up at the Waste Management Phoenix Open

When the tournament was sponsored by Carrolls you used to get given 40 fags at the first tee and while I wasn't a smoker and gave them to my caddie - who said: 'Thank you very much' - I thought the crowd was phenomenal.

You perhaps don't get as much fan participation across the board nowadays, but I really like the excitement at the French and Scottish Opens.

You are better off having 500,000 people screaming and hollering than just 10 educated fans.

Rob Lee
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The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth is very popular, too, due to its proximity to London and the fact top players are always there.

It's not all about numbers when it comes to fans as playing for a few diehard golf watchers who know when to react and when not to is nice.

And sometimes playing in America when fans chant for absolutely everything - you regularly hear cries of "pepperoni pizza" and "get in the hole" - is a bit overbearing.

But you are better off having 500,000 people screaming than just 10 educated fans.


Tiger Woods, meanwhile, will tee off in Dubai this week hoping to perform much better than he did at Torrey Pines, a course where had had won eight times before, including at the 2008 US Open.

Woods carded a seven-over-par third round at the Famers Insurance Open on Saturday to miss the second cut when, after his refreshing break over the Christmas period, you expected nothing less than a Tiger win.

He swashbuckled a little to make the first cut and there were glimpses of the Tiger of old, but I just don't think we are ever going to see the Woods we saw years ago when he shot ridiculous scores and reeled off Majors at will.

However, a course in the Emirates is great for Tiger because there is a bit of room, he won't be forced to hit the driver every time and he'll expect to make a good score.

Woods will be joined in Dubai by Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson but the fourth favourite is Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello, who won this event two years ago and has started 2014 in great style with top-five finishes in Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

Watch out for him this week.


Cabrera-Bello's countryman, Sergio Garcia, is celebrating after winning the Qatar Masters and it is great to see him looking happy again after a period seemingly not enjoying his golf.

You have to pat yourself on the back when you do well on the course and Sergio, who has often appeared miserable, did that last week, so if that continues and he gets a kick out of playing I see only bright things in his future.

Garcia is so good that he can go on half-emotional power and still do reasonably well but if he really plugs into it and harnesses his skill, he could become a multiple Major winner.

Sticking with Spaniards, I am absolutely delighted that Juan Mata has joined Man United.

When he was frozen out by Jose Mourinho, I really hoped David Moyes would step in and take him but I never thought for a second that Chelsea would let him go to Old Trafford, so perhaps the fact he has done that shows how much respect Mourinho has for Mata.

It's Mourinho being a good guy - but also a clever guy, in that it strengthens United for their games with Chelsea's title rivals.


I like Rory McIlroy in Dubai. He won in Australia at the end of last year and would have won in Abu Dhabi if not for a ridiculous two-shot penalty, so he is my man this week. For an each-way bet, put your cash on Pablo Larrazabal, who is inconsistent but talented.

Over in the States, I like the look of Gary Woodland, who was in a great position at the Farmers Insurance Open before double-bogeying the 17th and slipping to 10th spot. He also made a play-off at the CIMB Classic late last year so is due a victory.

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