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

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    Watch: Tiger birdies 3 of 4, then goes OB

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 8:30 pm

    Starting Sunday five off the lead, Tiger Woods teed off in his final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

    Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which he walked in.

    A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

    A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

    Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

    Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

    His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.

    But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and another birdie at No. 10.

    He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.

    And with this roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, the charge was officially on, with Woods just one back.

    Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and sniped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.

    He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 to drop back to 11 under, three behind.

    (More coming...)

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    Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

    By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

    Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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    McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

    McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    “I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

    Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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    “I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

    This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

    A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

    McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

    “It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

    As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

    “It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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    Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

    By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

    PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

    She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

    Her confidence is high.

    “Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

    Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

    Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

    “One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

    “I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

    Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

    “I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

    That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.