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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    Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust

    By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 10:55 pm

    While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):

    7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

    Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.

    8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

    There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.

    8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

    Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.

    12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

    Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.

    12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

    There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.

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    Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?

    By Randall MellAugust 20, 2018, 10:00 pm

    We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.

    Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.

    I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.

    That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.

    In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.

    My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.

    Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.

    It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.

    So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?

    We hope it isn’t his back.

    Or his neck.

    Or his knees.

    Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.

    Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.

    Competitively, it’s all that matters.

    Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.

    We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

    Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?

    The game soars to yet another level with that.

    A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.

    So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.

    The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.

    They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.

    They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.

    Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.

    And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.

    The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.

    Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.

    For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.

    There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.

    Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.

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    Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work

    By Grill Room TeamAugust 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

    NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.

    "Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.

    Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.

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    Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener

    By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 5:41 pm

    Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.

    Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.

    A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.

    The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.

    "It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."

    The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.

    Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.

    Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.