17th at Sawgrass Grabs Everyones Attention

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2004, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Everyone from the casual tourist to the best players in the world can relate.
They stand on the tee box, a good round nearly complete, and looming in front lies the expanse -- 121 yards of black water surrounding a tiny, manmade island.
The 17th hole at the Stadium Course. It is, by many accounts, the most famous hole in golf, and it will be the most-watched hole at The Players Championship, beginning Thursday.
17th Green at TPC at Sawgrass'It's probably the one hole in golf that most people want to play, to see if they can do it,' defending champion Davis Love said.
Players, good and bad, dunk an estimated 150,000 balls into the murky waters each year; that's a little more than three for every round played. For four days, the pros take over and fare better. But they're far from perfect.
Love got the thing right last year. He carried a five-stroke lead into the final two holes and suddenly, 17 didn't seem so daunting.
But with the wind blowing? With the one-stroke lead and the tournament on the line? That's when No. 17, ranked only the ninth-toughest hole on the Stadium Course, becomes anything but average.
'When the wind's not blowing, it's no problem,' Love said. 'As soon as the wind starts blowing, we start calling it Mickey Mouse or carnival.'
It's the most photographed hole in the world and has its own Web site, culture and a betting rigamarole that would keep the most seasoned bookie busy. Tickets for this tournament aren't that hard to get. But for a seat on the grassy mounds surrounding No. 17, it pays to arrive early.
NBC will use 10 cameras to cover action on the hole, including one from the tiny bunker that fronts the green.
'I wish they had a heart monitor and a blood-pressure machine there,' analyst Johnny Miller said.
Phil Mickelson calls No. 17 'a birdie' hole on the one hand, but concedes there is trepidation.
'I equate it to walking a balance beam,' he said. 'You can walk a balance beam no problem, a foot off the ground. But raise it to 10 stories and it looks different.'
So many players have fallen off over the years.
Len Mattiace was one stroke off the lead when he stepped up to the 17th hole on a Sunday in 1998. Two water balls later -- including one he flew up and over the green from the greenside bunker -- and he had made an 8.
Remember Scott Gump? He was pressing David Duval for the championship in 1999. He lost by two and the difference was a water ball on No. 17. Hardly anyone ever heard from him again.
'It's a crazy game,' Gump said after the round.
There are other ways this hole can get a guy. A few years ago, Fred Couples rolled one right into the cup from the tee box ... for a 3. His first shot went in that other hole, the water. Of course, Couples has also made a real hole-in-one there, too.
The 17th is only one part of a layout, designed by Pete Dye, that makes The Players Championship one of the toughest tests in golf. Not only does it annually have the toughest field -- 80 of the top 100 will be here this year -- but its heavy rough, contoured greens and demanding targets require almost every player to use almost every club in the bag.
The winner will earn $1.35 million, the richest purse on tour, and to hear the players tell it, the money will be well earned.
'It tests all aspects of the game and all aspects mentally,' Love said.
Nowhere does the mental challenge loom larger than on 17.
On a calm day, with no water, a 137-yard shot is almost as routine as a tap-in putt for the pros. But it's not always calm in Ponte Vedra. And there is water. And pressure. That's why the hole defines the tournament.
'When you're one shot behind coming in the last day, you see the pin, you don't see the green, that way you hit a better shot,' Vijay Singh said. 'So it's got a lot to do with the mind, and it's just a very intimidating hole to play.'
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - The Players Championship

  • Full Coverage - The Players Championship

    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.