The par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass is the most infamous hole in golf and plays a massive role in determining who wins one of the most significant events in the sport, The Players Championship.
What should be done with this island hole? Should it be left as it is, be moved to earlier in the rotation or be blown up? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in.
By RANDALL MELL
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Leave it alone.
The 17th island hole worked the reality TV formula long before reality TV became popular.
Action at that hole has all the same ingredients in the sense that the reality there feels so forced and manufactured. The reality is architecturally contrived, the island and lake springing out of Pete Dye’s imagination.
There’s nothing natural about the hole.
As a player, I would hate that my fate on a Sunday may ride on a gust of wind, knowing there’s no way to show off my great-escape ability because there’s no getting up and down from the bottom of a lake.
The island hole never belonged as the 71st hole of an important championship, but I can’t help myself, I like it there anyway. I love it there. It’s a fan’s delight, maybe a sadist’s delight. And make no mistake, that hole belongs to the fans now. The shot is so intricately linked to the championship’s identity, it would damage the event to change that hole now.
By REX HOGGARD
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – There’s nothing wrong with TPC Sawgrass’ 17th hole that a little rerouting can’t fix.
As a standalone hole, the island-green 17th is all at once entertaining and challenging, not an easy trick for a 137-yard pitch-and-putt. The problem is not what it is so much as where it is in the Stadium Course’s batting order.
“Seventeen is a great hole, but not the 17th,” Tiger Woods said. “It’s a perfect eighth hole or something like that.”
It’s a compelling opinion for a player with a “better than most” moment on the penultimate hole during the 2001 Players when his winding 60-footer dropped in for an unlikely birdie.
As the eighth hole, for example, Pete Dye’s handiwork would be interesting, and just as demanding on a windy day, and yet still leave room for players to recover if they catch the wrong gust of wind.
In 2008 Sergio Garcia beat Paul Goydos in a playoff when the game’s most affable “Dirt Bag” caught the wrong wind at the wrong moment. A year earlier it was Sean O’Hair who was gust busted at No. 17.
So late in the order, however, too much is riding on luck. The rub of the green is part of golf, but too many tournaments have been decided by an untimely wind. That doesn’t identify the best player, just the one with the best timing.
By RYAN BALLENGEE
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – At the island-green 17th, there are more lanes on the road to ruin than Interstate 95. While it's impossible to prevent wrecks on the superhighway, the penultimate par 3 at the Stadium Course needs to be paved over with a replacement hole.
Even for a short shot, there are far too many variables at work for the hole to be a viable measure of a player's physical skill and mental fortitutde. The wind, the firmness of the green, the heat - they all combine for what can be an unpredictable and unfair hole.
A player can go in the water on three sides, or richochet into it off a bulkhead. They can hit it in one of the smallest bunkers on Tour. They might hit the green and face the possibility of putting it into the water.
Bottom line: too much can go wrong and not enough can go right for the hole to be a test worthy of a tournament bordering on major status.
As Luke Donald said Wednesday, the best par-3 holes are short ones. The length of the 17th is not an issue, but rather the options for recovery. Enlarge the peninsula to allow for a collection area. Replace the water with sand, even if raking would be a nightmare.
If Pete Dye and the Tour insist on having so much water, however, land lock the green and create an island tee box.