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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    U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

    By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

    The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

    Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

    "It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

    Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

    Singles results

    Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

    Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

    Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

    Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

    Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

    Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

    Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

    Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

    Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

    Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

    Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

    Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up

     

    TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

    Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

    Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

    Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

     This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.

     

    -NBC Sports Group-

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    Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

    By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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    Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

    By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

    SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

    He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

    The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

    He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

    “I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

    It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

    For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.


    Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

    In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

    Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

    For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

    “You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

    But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

    “At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

    In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

    His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

    As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

    “We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

    “Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

    It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

    Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

    “Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

    If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

    Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

    Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.