The Subtle Yet Scary Island Green

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Its a short hole, only 140 yards long, with a flagstick that looks so inviting in the practice rounds. But the 17th at the TPC at Sawgrass during The Players Championship can be ' and often is ' terrifying.
 
The problem is that there is water all the way from the tee box to the green. There is water left of the green, to the right of the green, behind the green. The green is an island, and there is no fairway.
 
Its in the back of your head all day long, because you know youve got to play them (along with 18) sooner or later, said Mark Calcavecchia. Its like having a three oclock appointment for a root canal; youre thinking about it all morning and you feel like (spit) all day. You know sooner or later, youve got to get to it.
 
There is no bail-out ' none. Its just a little 9-iron, perhaps a very easy 8, but its position on the course is crucial ' the next-to-last hole, one which could very easily botch up an otherwise-impressive round. And there simply is no room for error ' miss the shot and youre wet. And the drop zone may be a more difficult shot, 70 yards from which it is difficult to spin the ball back.
 
Youve just got to step up and hit the golf shot, said Jeff Sluman. And until you play it under conditions when youre livelihood is at stake, its not that intimidating.
 
But Thursday through Sunday, your belly is jumping a little bit. You understand youre name is on your bag (meaning you are a pro), and there is a reason there is, and youve just got to step up and hit the shot. And sometimes youre going to hit balls in the water.
 
The little hole measured only 137 yards in length for Round 1, yet there were 26 balls that plunked into the water in the capricious winds. The hole was the second toughest on the course, playing to an average of almost a half-stroke over par. And yet, Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez aced it ' with an 8-iron, which he would normally use for a 150-yard shot.
 
Stuart Appleby was one of the unfortunate ones, his tee shot going way to the left, almost hitting the bank on dry land to mar what was an otherwise nifty round. He went into 17 with a 4-under-par score and left at 2-under.
 
I didnt hit a very good shot, said a disconsolate Appleby. I tried to hit a knockdown 8-iron. The wind was probably blowing about 11 oclock, probably a club (difference) into the breeze.
 
The hole makes you ' if youre not indecisive, it can really just throw things at you and theres a lot going on on that hole. Its an obvious awareness theres no grass to chip from.
 
Calcavecchia knows it is important to pick a club ' and a swing ' that you believe in.
 
You just walk around there and you look at it and you tell yourself, Commit to a club, pick a shot and hit it. You know, most of the time, you hit it the way you want it.
 
Of course, some of the time, you dont. This is what plays on the mind of the players. And if you dont, you might as well start walking to the drop zone. There is no chipping from the rough on hole 17.
 
You are fairly sure you can just get it to the middle of the green, said Calc. Sunday the pin is over there on the right, and the weather is nice, theres not a whole lot of gusty wind. You just aim for the ridge.
 
Its a 9-iron, you know. If it was a 5-iron or something, it would be a different story. You ought to be able to suck it up and concentrate hard enough.
 
You ought to, yes you should. But thats the point. Is there a more evil hole than that?
 
Probably not, confessed Calcavecchia. Thats a good word for it, on account of you can make an excellent swing and make double (bogey) or worse.
 
Full-field scores from The Players Championship