Press Pass From Sawgrass to Oakmont

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Press PassEach week, GOLF CHANNEL experts and analysts offer their thoughts and opinions on hot topics in the world of golf with the Press Pass.
 
Hot Topic
Looking back, do you think the par-3 17th at Sawrass is 'gimmicky' as Tiger Woods suggested at the beginning of last week?
 
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Columnist, GOLFCHANNEL.com:
In the parlance of the day: It is what it is. For something to be 'gimmicky' I think part of the concept has to be new and/or surprising. The 17th at the Stadium Course is neither. I think if they ever let the green get too firm, it would be gimmicky. As it stands now, the players at THE PLAYERS all know, well in advance, what's coming. It's a dangerous hole. But it's not an ambush. Therefore, I do not think it's gimmicky.
 
Steve Sands Steve Sands - Reporter, GOLF CHANNEL:
It might be a little gimmicky, but it's helped make the course and championship famous. It's one of the most highly anticipated shots in all of golf.
 
Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer, GOLFCHANNEL.com:
Maybe, but it's definitely entertaining. To make it the eighth hole on the course, as Tiger also suggested, would take away a great deal of drama from this tournament. As the 17th, it has helped make the tournament what it is today.
 
Hot Topic
After back-to-back huge weeks on the PGA TOUR, who is your early sleeper pick for the U.S. Open at Oakmont?
 
Hewitt:
My sleeper pick is Steve Stricker. Even though Stricker didn't play well at THE PLAYERS, he has started finding fairways again off the tee and has continued to improve on 2006. As putters go, he's one of the best five or 10 on TOUR. Putting will be at an ultra-premium at Oakmont, the most intimidating set of greens in America. Sentimental sleeper is Ernie Els, who won at Oakmont in 1994.
 
Sands:
I think people are overlooking Sergio Garcia. His runner-up finish at THE PLAYERS was a big confidence boost.
 
Baggs:
It might be hard to consider the third-ranked player in the world a 'sleeper,' but Jim Furyk isn't making a lot of headlines this year. He could have won this tournament a year ago, were it not for a bogey at the last. He's as accurate as ever off the tee; if he can improve on his putting over the next month the Pennsylvania native might be able to add a second U.S. Open title to his resume. Scott Verplank might be worth keeping an eye on as well.
 
Hot Topic
What was your favorite storyline from THE PLAYERS Championship?
 
Hewitt:
Favorite storyline had to be Tiger Woods putting the hammer down on 'Roary' Sabbatini. Enough said.
 
Sands:
Phil winning was big, but I was really impressed with Sean O'Hair trying to win. A large paycheck is nice, but winning is what it should be about at the highest level. He tried to win the golf tournament when he attacked the pin at 17 and it cost him around $700,000 when he went in the water.
 
Baggs:
As much as I loved the soap opera moments from THE PLAYERS, I think the way Phil played on Sunday was the highlight of the tournament. He avoided disaster on 17 and 18 and played the kind of golf that it takes to win a major (semi-major) event. This should make his pre-tournament press conference at the U.S. Open a little more pleasant.
 
Hot Topic
What in your view was the shot of the week at THE PLAYERS?
 
Hewitt:
With apologies to the double eagles of Hunter Mahan and Peter Lonard, the shot of the week was, without question, Phil Mickelson's thread-the-needle second at the 10th on Friday. Remember, this is a hole Mickelson once five-putted. The risk-reward was such on this hole in the third round that Mickelson didn't even tell his caddie, before the shot, what he was trying to do.
 
Sands:
Phil's second at 18 on Sunday. It almost went in the water but stayed up. If it's wet it could've cost him THE PLAYERS, but it didn't. And he won.
 
Baggs:
Nearly a decade later, I still think about Len Mattiace hitting two in the water Sunday at 17 to cost him a shot at winning THE PLAYERS. Ten years from now, I'll still be able to recall Sean O'Hair doing pretty much the same thing this past Sunday.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - THE PLAYERS Championship