Victoria's Cory Renfrew to tee it up with PGA’s best

It was just last week that Victoria’s Cory Renfrew fired out an Instagram picture on his Twitter account, a worm’s-eye view of him taking a rip at his golf ball, sun gleaming in the Arizona backdrop.

“Just a little stadium course action tonight before sunset. Hopefully I’ll get to play it again when the crowds are out at #WMPhxOpen #AZlivin #lifeisgood,” read the tweet.

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A bit of foreshadowing as the PGA Tour Canada veteran qualified Monday for the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open that begins Thursday at the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course.

Yes, the very tournament that includes the 162-yard par-3 16th that is known as the loudest hole in golf at a tournament dubbed the “Greatest Show on Grass.”

It’s a long way from the more senior clientele enjoying their lunch and coffee at Bill Mattick’s restaurant at Cordova Bay Golf Course where Renfrew has spent much of his time, or the VIP patio at Uplands Golf Club where he’s used to fans watching him come in during the Bayview Place Island Savings Open presented by Times Colonist.

“Yeah, it’s a little different, but it’s the same game,” Renfrew said after his practice round on Tuesday in which he played with veteran Canadian Mike Weir and Robert Streb, who won the McGladrey Classic this season and is currently second in the FedEx Cup standings. “For sure, this is going to be cool.

“They were even there going to 16 and 17 today,” he said of the rowdy fans. “It was raucous today. I got booed on my first one when I missed the green. I hit my second [pros play several shots during practice rounds] to within 10 feet and got some cheers.”

This will be Renfrew’s second PGA event, the first coming at the 2012 Canadian Open where he missed the cut by a shot. He has also competed in two Tour events, missing the cut in one and finishing top 25 in the other.

He qualified for this PGA stop — which features the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, just to mention a few — with a 6-under 66 in Monday qualifying at McCormick Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale. It was a round that included seven birdies (including two stretches of three in a row) and a bogey.

“I’m stoked,” Renfrew said of the chance. “I had the adrenalin going yesterday and I’m sure I’ll have all the emotions going on Thursday afternoon.”

He’ll tee it up with Tony Finau, whom he knows well from PGA Tour Canada, and up-and-comer Justin Thomas.

Spectacular golf is nothing new to the 28-year-old Renfrew, who shot a 59 in December of 2012 on the All-American Golf Tour. That came in the first round at the Legacy Golf Resort in Phoenix and included an eagle and 10 birdies. Renfrew had also shot a 58 at Cordova Bay the August previous.

This, however, is a totally different beast, especially at the 16th where 20,000-plus boisterous fans in the grandstands circle the hole known as The Coliseum, chugging beer and screaming their opinions of your tee shot.

It’s the hole where Woods collected a hole-in-one back in 1997, which he described in his Tuesday press conference as: “Just smelling and hearing the beer hit behind me on the tee box. Obviously, it was a different setup then [fewer grandstands], to turn around and see all this beer flying was crazy.”

“The more eerie part was, playing 17 and 18, nobody cared. They were walking in because they had seen what they wanted to see. We’d look back at 16 and you’d see all these empty beer cups everywhere on the tee box and they were all heading up 18 to the Birds Nest [an entertainment tent on course].”

Woods — making his 2015 debut this week — has not played the tournament since 2003 because of security concerns, which have since been controlled.

It’s also a course that features renovated change with re-bunkering along fairways that now challenges the longer hitters and revamped greens.

“I hit it good today, I was pleased,” said Renfrew, who played the course for just the third time Tuesday and is one of six Canadians in the field along with fellow B.C. golfers Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor, David Hearn, Graham DeLaet and Weir.

Only one Canadian has won the event and that was George Knudson in 1968, when it was known as the Phoenix Open Invitational in which the top prize was $20,000 and it had a total purse of $100,000. This year the total purse is $6.3 million with $1,134,000 going to the winner.

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