Stories of triumph and tragedy at TPC Sawgrass

By Golf Channel NewsroomMay 5, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 THE PLAYERSWe asked the question and you the viewers responded in kind. The offered you a chance to recall your own stories of playing one of the crown jewels on the PGA TOUR. The essays are in and so without further adieu we bring to you, 'Stories Told of TPC Sawgrass.'
TPC Sawgrass 17

I had the chance to play the TPC Sawgrass course as a birthday present from my wife. The course was tough as any I've ever played (Pinehurst #2, PGA West Stadium, Cascades at Homestead). Tournament-tough as I played this April before the course closed. Shot 99 Hit 17 and 3-putted for bogey and finished up at Bill Murrays celebrity tourney party that nite. WOW! What a 48th birthday from my wife. Never had a better golf day and night in my life and don't expect one to come along anytime soon. Sawgrass and Caddyshack celeb party. Grinning just thinking about it.
-- Joe, Radford, VA

'Played Sawgrass in '99 with my 3 brothers. Each hole was memorable, but the intimidation factor starting to heat up on 16. Managed to get on in 3 and two putt. And then the walk to 17. Yipe. My eldest brother laid up (sort of). Hard to make a full shoulder turn when there's a lump in your throat. We hit two tee shots, one from the forward tee and then one from the back. Miraculously, I hit the green with both, Two putts and a sigh of relief. I could breathe again. Then, 18! Bail city! We had a blast.
-- Brian, Newton, NC

I played the TPC at Sawgrass on a cold (47 degrees) and blustery (20-25 mph winds)February day in 1986. Shot 78 with a triple on 9, 2 three putts on 10 & 11, a birdie at 13, a par at 17, and a 5 on 18 after hitting it in the water off the tee. It was a memorable round right up there with playing Pebble Beach (1969)after marshalling for Palmer in the Crosby Pro-Am and Bay Hill (1992) where I met Arnie again and Scott Hoch.
-- Dennis, Springfield, IL

Played the TPC Sawgrass on April 9, 1990. I remember it like it was yesterday. Played on a one night golf widow package. They nickel and dimed us on everything. Surcharge to play the Stadium course. Charged for my wife to ride. No yardage book available. Played with a local who was very helpful. On many holes I had no idea where to hit it assuming I could hit it where I wanted. The course was great with the fastest Bermuda greens I ever saw. I had 42 putts and shot 94 from blue tees. Only had three pars but one of them was on the island green #17. It made my day.
-- Frank, Ashland, KY

My most vivid thoughts of the TPC Sawgrass are actually sad. I was scheduled to go there on sept.21 2001 with a buddy of mine. When the sept.11th attacks happened my buddy cancelled. The hotel, which is usually 97% full at that time of year, was at 3% occupancy. When I showed up at the first tee the starter said that I was going solo. I finished my round in 1 hour and 45 minutes. After putting out I ran into the starter who told me I finished my 18 holes before the 2nd group had teed off! I just remember feeling sad that a group of people could stop our country like that. I was further saddened when I went to the pro shop and they told me there was no reduced rate for a replay on the stadium course. It was going to be another 250 plus bucks to play. I just remember shaking my head and walking away.
-- Bob Malone, Long Beach, NY

To quote a different source that tortured many of us (The infamous Mr. Rogers); 'It's (was) a beautiful day in the neighborhood' at the Stadium Course that day.
Back when I could actually still play a little, before walking rigor mortis set in, I took my stable and honest 7 handicap to the TPC looking forward to fighting to avoid destruction. Typical of the times, I played it all the way back fearing no length back then.
Much to my surprise, I simply stayed in the moment admiring the course, especially the rest of the course that was rarely seen on the telecasts. When I got to my ball I just hit it and didn't worry about the outcome.
Low and behold, I finally tallied my score and was 7 over after 16. Two pars for a 79 baby!! I should not have checked my personal leader board........... Actually I was hitting the ball so solid I had no fear of 17/18 despite the stout breezes that kicked up. I should have known better....I had seen it often enough on the tube......birdie looks to doubles in a heartbeat, and I remember the shots like it was yesterday, and could clearly imagine what the roars and sighs of the invisible crowds sounded like as my relative fate was decided by a couple of hard bounces. My 8 iron at 17 looked like a laser on a mission to a back flag on the upper big bounce and she was gone......#%*!.....9 over, and no way I'm gonna eagle 18. I sucked it up and nailed a good drive on 18, seeking my revenge. 191 left into a cross wind with a lot of hurt, and a very front left pin. I flushed a 3 iron right at it that held the wind, high fiving myself between the ears.......too soon....the ball spun left and dribbled over the ties to bite me in the arse again. The 2 shots I happened to pay the most attention to and actually felt I stepped up and pulled off, kicked me in the teeth........yeah I should have made bogies on the holes still, but the letdown was just like you see every Players after the course wins one. It was still great be repeated if I ever get enough game back to warrant the potential abuse.

--Robert, Auburn, CA

18th at Sawgrass. Playing a couple of years ago. I hit my third shot short of the green in the tall grass. I asked the caddie what Vijay would hit from there. The caddie's response: Ma'am, Vijay has never been there before.'
--Peggy, High Point, NC

I was playing the TPC during the FCA National Scramble last fall. ON the 17th I sculled a 8 iron that hit the water and bounced onto the green. The fore caddy's comment was we don't see that shot on this hole very often. The group had a great laugh. By the way, I made par on the whole and helped the team. Great course, one of the best I have played.
--David, West Des Moines, IA

TPC at Sawgrass has always been a favorite course of mine. Not only as a kid, watching on Television, but also as a player! I am a member of the Golf Channel Amateur Tour, and I carded a 73 at the Stadium Sawgrass during a golf tour event. The unbelievable round started with a 39 on the front side and culminated with a 34 on the famed back side. With birdies on the 15th, 17th and 18th holes, it was definitely the best finish in tournament golf for me. To do it on the Stadium course was a thrilling experience.
--John, Tampa, FL

I played the TPC Sawgrass right before it started hosting the Players Championship. My wife and I were there for our honeymoon and she was nice enough to let me play some golf. Raymond Floyd was the defending Champion (on the Sawgrass CC course) and played with his group right ahead of me. I got to see a lot of great shots from him. I played from the blues and shot an 85.
My wife and I went back this past month to play it again for the first time since and on the first hole I threw my back out and spent much of the day in the doctor's office. Didn't get to play the course again, but I still have great memories from that first time.

--Craig, Chillicothe, IL

I played the Stadium Course back in 2001. My dad, sister and I flew from Europe to look at colleges for my sister, and while she frolicked the campuses, dad and I took the opportunity to test my newly bought, first set of stiff shafts at TPC. The round in itself was amazing and I made the green on 17, but I remember it best by the 24pack of donuts our hosts had supplied me with in my golf cart! Donut culture just isn't the same in Europe!
--Thomas, Helsinki, Finland

Our traveling golf group scheduled a trip to the TPC for November 1, 2006, the week the course was to reopen after renovation. We were all so thrilled to be able to finally play there. When we arrived, we were told that the course had indeed not opened, that supposedly 6 months into the renovation, someone decided to change one of the tees at the last minute, so the opening had been delayed! We were stunned, and worse yet, we played the sister course and had to drive through the TCP course to get there. Why they wouldn't have opened the course anyway and just let everyone skip that hole, or use a temporary tee was beyond all of us. And surely dampened our sprits seeing this beautiful course and not being able to play it, especially after planning this for so long.
At least they gave us a rain-check good for 1 year, but no one knew if we would be able to return by then. Last October, I luckily had the chance to be in the area and truly wanted to play the course more than ever. As a single, I was paired with 3 wonderful, older gentlemen who actually worked at the course to fix fairway divots in return for free golf. It was such a delight to play with them since they knew the course so well and could tell me how to play each hole. They were all amazing!
I am a 5 handicapper and shot a very satisfying 76, almost hitting #16 in two, hitting the famous #17 on the first try, and parring #18. The course and new clubhouse is such an amazing place and one gets a true sense of the history there.
I would highly recommend this experience to every dedicated golfer, it has to be on everyone's 'must-play' list!

--Denny, Powell, OH

I had the opportunity to play two rounds of golf at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course in the early 1980's. Those were the days that Pete Dye introduced railroad ties, transition areas, and island greens, to the weekend golfer. These precarious hazards played mental games with the golfer, none so much as the famous Par 3, number 17, 'Island Hole'.
In those days the 17th hole was played at 138 yards. They did not offer a drop zone as they have today. If one hit their drive into the water, you replayed your next shot from the tee box. Needless to say, this led to some long waits and backups. One could hear the giggles, and snide comments from the following group waiting to play the hole, after hitting another ball into the alligator infested waters.
My first experience with the intimidating #17 was memorable. I teed up my new ball, checked the wind speed and direction, adjusted for the adrenaline rush, and took one last look at the hole. The island green looked about as big as a postage stamp in a swimming pool. I don't remember swinging the eight iron. 'whack'....'Splash'. Oh well, try again. The pressure builds each shot and the second stroke was worse than the first, finding a watery grave as well. The gallery is enjoying themselves. The third, forth, and fifth strokes have a similar fate. One ball left of the two new sleeves of TPC monogrammed golf balls I purchased prior to the round. The sixth attempt somehow landed on the green and rolled to back left corner. Would it stay on the green or tumble into the lake behind. It somehow rolled onto the narrow walking path the golfers use to get onto the island green. 'On in ten'. A chip and two putts later I walked off that devious sandbar with a smooth 13. A serving of humble pie.
The next day I could feel the anxiety build as our group approached the seventeenth hole. This was a different day. After deleting all swing thoughts, I hit a seven iron stiff, and made the birdie putt.
'Feast or Famine'
One of the most exciting holes of golf you will ever play!

--Gary, Tempe, AZ

We were on our annual Thanksgiving weekend trip, with 36 holes per day split between the Valley and TPC courses at Sawgrass. I had been playing great, closer to a five handicap rather than the eight on my card. After playing the Valley course in the morning, we tackled the TPC course for the fourth round of the trip. Although I showed poor etiquette, my playing partners let me play from the tips while they played from the regular tees. Once again, I was hot, shooting one over on the front nine, even after a triple on the fifth. Going into 17 I was two over for the day, and it was getting dark. The pin was in the front, right where Fred Couples holed his tee shot for a par. It was a smooth nine iron for me. But, of course, I peeked, caught it slightly thin, and even though it was heading straight for the pin, it hit the top of the railroad ties in front of the green and dropped into the water. Double Bogey. Still, four over for the day is not bad if I could get a par on 18. I hit a perfect drive, hugging the left side of the fairway. With our buddies waiting for us at the 18th green and darkness closing fast, I went for the pin and made my worst swing of the week, coming over the top and hooking it straight into the water. Double Bogey again! Although I limped home, it was a fantastic experience and I want another shot at Sawgrass, and particularly the 17th and 18th holes.
--Jeff, Bedford, NH

Have I Played Sawgrass, Augusta, etc.?
How many regular golfers do you think can play any of the elite courses?
I belong to the millions of golfers that can't afford these places.
Ask me about special rounds and unique stories at the Municipal or Public Courses where I and millions of others golfers play.

--Mario, Miami, FL

On March 29, 2008 my girlfriend and I traveled to TPC Sawgrass to experience the course for the first time. We were paired with another couple and had a great fore-caddy John. I was playing pretty well; very difficult course. Well, we got to #17. I was first up. The hole was playing 131yds with the pin in the middle. I hit a very high 9 iron and the ball went into the hole on the fly. Yes a hole in one. That's my story.
--Steven, Belleair, FL

Yes I played The Stadium Course at Sawgrass. The starter said he was going to add a person to our two-some. Turned out to be J.C. Snead. I was already nervous now I was really screwed up. The time I reached the 17th all I wanted was to go home. Would you believe I birded the hole. Shot 94 that day.
--Lawrence, Jackson, TN

My son and I have a tradition of playing a grudge-match on a renowned course. We even have an appropriate trophy, which the winner keeps until the next match. We have played locally at World Woods, in Brooksville, Florida, and the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook. We have also traveled to Carmel, California to play Spanish Bay and the Bayonet Course in nearby Seaside. A few years ago, we played our match at the TPC Sawgrass, Stadium Course. When we arrived at the 17th tee, my son was one stroke ahead and had the honor. His tee shot was straight and true, landing in the middle of the green. Mine, however, was a pathetic chunk that fell 10 yards short of the green. Not my finest moment. I made double bogey from the drop area and he parred the hole, putting me three strokes down with one hole to play. I fought back on the 18th and made a tricky 15 foot downhill putt from the back tier for a birdie, as my son struggled with the course and his nerves. Although I lost, I was never prouder of him than when he stepped up to his tricky 4-footer on the 18th hole at the Stadium Course and drained it for a bogey, to win by one stroke. Over the years since, I have played the course four more times, hitting the green at the 17th each time with my tee shot. However, none of these rounds have been as much fun or meant as much to me as that first time, with my son.
--Buzz, Valrico, FL

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    Tiger draws Sneds, Kizzire at Honda Classic

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    The Social: In perfect harmony?

    By Jason CrookFebruary 20, 2018, 7:00 pm

    Bubba Watson re-emerges in the winner's circle but gets exposed on the hardwood, Mark Wahlberg tunes out Tiger Woods and if John Daly wants a drinking partner, he need look no further than ... John Daly?

    All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

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    The two-time Masters champion hung out with Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres, caught a taping of "The Big Bang Theory," played in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and still found some time to notch his first PGA Tour win in two years.

    Watson's third victory at Riviera couldn't have come at a better time for the 39-year-old, with an annual trip down Magnolia Lane right around the corner. But don't let that distract you from the only Bubba highlight that mattered from the weekend:

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    Sports fans probably take Bubba Golf for granted sometimes, no one plays the game like he does. Lets not make the same mistake with Bubba Basketball.

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    Rory McIlroy said last week after playing with Tiger Woods at the Genesis Open that the 14-time major champ gives up two strokes a tournament dealing with the hoopla that comes with being Tiger Woods.

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    Veteran Golf Journalist Bradley S. Klein Joins Golf Channel Editorial Team

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsFebruary 20, 2018, 4:15 pm

    Klein to Lend 30-Plus Years in Golf Architecture, History and Travel Journalism to Golf Advisor, Golf Channel’s Digital Travel and Lifestyle Brand

    Read Klein’s first column here

    Veteran golf travel, history and architecture journalist Bradley S. Klein has joined Golf Channel’s editorial team as senior writer for Golf Advisor, the company’s ever-expanding digital destination for the traveling golfer, featuring more than 700,000 reviews of nearly 15,000 golf courses in 80 countries worldwide. Klein’s first column appears today and provides eight simple tips for becoming a golf course architecture junkie – how architecture can be more relevant to everyday golfers and design aspects to observe that can make a round of golf a more fulfilling experience.

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    "We are extremely excited to have Brad join the Golf Advisor team. His unique contributions covering history and architecture will be an excellent complement to the travel content Matt Ginella brings to Golf Advisor and Golf Channel’s Morning Drive,” said Mike Lowe, vice president and general manager, Golf Advisor. “Brad’s reputation and experience in the industry make him a wonderful addition to our expanding golf travel and course design editorial team.”

    Other members of Golf Advisor’s editorial team include: Brandon Tucker, Mike Bailey, Jason Deegan, Bill Irwin and Tim Gavrich.

    Including assignments for Golfweek, Klein has written more than 1,500 feature articles on course architecture, resort travel, golf course development, golf history and the media for such other publications as Golf Digest, Financial Times, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. He has published seven books on golf architecture and history, including Discovering Donald Ross, winner of the USGA 2001 International Book Award. In 2015, Klein won the Donald Ross Award for lifetime achievement from the American Society of Golf Course Architects. He is well known within the golf industry and has served as a consultant on numerous golf course development and restoration projects, most recently the Old Macdonald course at acclaimed Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon.

    Golf Advisor now includes the integration of Golf Vacation Insider and Golf Odyssey, two leading travel newsletters with a combined reach of more than a half million subscribers. Both newsletters joined Golf Channel’s portfolio of businesses in 2017 as part of the acquisition of Revolution Golf, golf’s largest direct-to-consumer digital platform offering video-based instruction and integrated e-commerce.

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    Stock Watch: Fans getting louder, rowdier

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 3:01 pm

    Each week on, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


    Bubba (+9%): Half of his 10 Tour titles have come at Augusta National and Riviera – that’s pretty stout. Though he can be maddening to cover because of his personality quirks, an in-form Watson is a must-watch.

    Phil (+5%): For the first time in 11 years, Mickelson put together three consecutive top-6 finishes on Tour. Suddenly, another green jacket or that elusive U.S. Open title doesn’t seem so far away.

    Kevin Na (+3%): How much fun would this guy be on a Ryder Cup team? He hits it dead straight – which will be important at Le Golf National, where the home team will narrow the fairways – and would drive the Europeans absolutely bonkers.

    West Coast swing (+2%): From Jason Day to Gary Woodland to Ted Potter to Watson, the best coast produced a series of memorable comeback stories. And that’s always good news for those of us who get paid to write about the game.

    South Korean talent (+1%): They already represent nine of the top 16 players in the world, and that doesn’t even include Jin Young Ko, who just won in her first start as an LPGA member.


    Steve Stricker Domination (-1%): Those predicting that he would come out and mop up on the PGA Tour Champions – hi there! – will be surprised to learn that he’s now 0-for-7 on the senior circuit (with five top-3s), after Joe Durant sped past him on the final day in Naples. The quality of golf out there is strong.

    Patrick Cantlay’s routine (-2%): Never really noticed it before, but Cantlay ground to a halt during the final round, often looking at the cup six or seven times before finally stroking his putt. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that his final-round scoring average is nearly four strokes higher than his openers.

    Lydia Ko (-3%): Another wholesale change? Whatever is going on here – and it reeks of too much parental involvement – it’s not good for her short- or long-term future.

    Tiger (-4%): It’s early, and he’s obviously savvy enough to figure it out, but nothing else in this comeback will matter if Woods can’t start driving it on the planet.

    Fan behavior (-8%): Kudos to Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas for taking the Riviera spectators to task for their tiresome (and increasingly aggressive) calls after a player hits a shot. The only problem? PGA National’s par-3 17th could be even worse – the drunk fans are closer to the action, and the hole is infinitely more difficult than TPC Scottsdale’s 16th. Buckle up.