Is par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass a great hole?

By Joe PosnanskiMay 10, 2013, 1:10 pm

Famous golf holes
Golden Bell
No. 12 at Augusta National.
Par 3, 155 yards.

Why it’s famous: The shortest hole at Augusta National is guarded by Rae’s Creek, backed by pine trees and azaleas, accessed over Hogan’s Bridge, and surrounded by a deceptive and swirling wind that even people who have played the Masters dozens of times struggle to read. Jack Nicklaus calls it the best little par 3 in the world.

A story: In 1947, Claude Harmon was playing the Masters with Ben Hogan when he made a hole-in-one on No. 12. The crowd cheered madly. When he got to the green and picked the ball out of the hole, the crowd cheered madly again. Harmon waited for Hogan to say something – Hogan was famously icy to competitors. Hogan said nothing. Harmon was about to give up hope, but as they walked to the 13th, Hogan finally spoke.

“You know something, Claude,” Hogan said (according to the story), “I think that’s the first time I ever made birdie there.”

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Here’s the question: Is the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass a great golf hole? The Island Green – the one surrounded entirely by water except for a 12-foot-wide walkway, you know the hole – is unquestionable one of golf’s most famous holes. It is certainly one of the most iconic holes. It is so popular that people line up just to chip balls toward a miniature version of it in front of the TPC store. It makes for great, great television.

But: Is it a great hole?

In so many ways, this is really the talk of The Players Championship. Here we are with perhaps the deepest field of any golf tournament on earth … and people talk about No. 17. Here we are at the headquarters of the PGA Tour … and people talk about No. 17. Here we are at what many people consider golf’s fifth major … and people talk about No. 17.

“I was playing by myself with no fans on Sunday,” says former PGA champion and Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, “and I got up there to No. 17. The wind wasn’t blowing, and I was still nervous. … It’s nerve-wracking. I think it makes this tournament become iconic.”

So, that’s one view. But the thing that makes No. 17 a fascinating hole is that for everyone who loves it, there’s someone else who does not. Here’s former PGA player and Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee: “I absolutely think this tournament should be a major. I think one of the things that keeps it from getting its due is the 17th hole. …  There’s a contrived part of the 17th hole that makes it great TV, that makes it great drama, that I think makes the feel of the golf course quirky.”

Yes, this is at the heart of the 17th hole. Is it excellent or quirky? Is it a gimmick or does it have real greatness?

Famous golf holes
The Road Hole
No. 17 at The Old Course, St. Andrews
Par 4, 455 yards

Why it’s famous: Everything about the hole is iconic, from the tee shot (where you hit over a shed with “The Old Course Hotel” sign on it), to the Road Hole bunker (which is so deep that golfers usually have to hit the ball out sideways) to the road itself and the stone wall behind it which are all in play.

A story: In 1984, Tom Watson was tied for the lead as he teed off on the Road Hole – an effort to win a record-tying sixth British Open. He hit the fairway, had 183 yards left, but because of his angle he decided to fly the ball into the green rather than chase it up there. He hit it over and onto the road, only a few inches away from the wall. From there he was only able to jab the ball up on the green, about 35 to 40 feet from the hole. He missed the putt and lost the British Open to Seve Ballesteros.

“My favorite golf courses,” Watson said, “look easy. You want it to look easy so that a golfer can feel at home. Then, as they play it, they find it’s not easy at all.”

What does greatness mean? The highest grossing movies of all time are Avatar and Titanic. Are they great movies? The best-selling books of 2012 were Fifty Shades of Gray and The Hunger Games. Are they great books? The best-selling country albums of all time are Garth Brooks’ “Double Live” and Shania Twain’s “Come On Over.” Are they great albums?

I don’t ask those questions facetiously … there is something about each of these that touches people deeply. There is also something about the 17th hole at Sawgrass that touches people deeply. The golfer steps to the tee and no matter the conditions, no matter the wind, no matter the situation, the golfer must hit a ball over water, nothing but water, onto a green that looks as if it’s floating out there like a giant inflatable raft. The hole is raw and blatant and without any ambiguity – it seems to come out of a child’s dream. There’s the stadium crowd … there’s the golfer … there’s the ball … there’s the water … there’s the green. Now: Succeed!

“It’s a great hole,” says two-time major champion Johnny Miller. “It’s a great test of your nerves.”

One thing about the best golf holes is that they have a depth to them. They are beautiful and challenging and historic. Look at No. 12 at Augusta. It demands more than just nerves of steel … it demands that a golfer make a good decision and judge the twisting winds and plot out the proper place to hit the ball and overcome the ghosts of all the people who lost the Masters there.

Look at the road hole at St. Andrews. It looks like nothing, but history swirls around the place, and there are countless ways to play it, and like Watson says what looks easy is difficult, and what seems simple is in fact drenched in complications.

What about the Island Green?

“I like it,” six-time major champion Nick Faldo says of the Island Green. “I like it because you think about it before you drive in the gate. …  It gets your attention.”

“Nick is absolutely right,” Chamblee says. “I woke up every morning thinking about that hole. But if I had an execution in the afternoon, I’d wake up thinking about that, too.”

Famous golf holes
No. 18 at Pebble Beach
Par 5, 543 yards

Why it’s famous: It is probably the most iconic finishing hole in golf, not so much for its difficulty as its beauty. The hole runs along the Pacific Ocean, a very long bunker guards the left side of the green (where the Sunday flag is always placed) and a single Cypress tree also guards the green.  The decision to go for the green or lay up is one of the most interesting in professional golf.

A story: At the 2000 U.S. Open, John Daly came to No. 18 and hit his drive right. When he got to the ball, he realized that it was out of bounds. So, he trudged back to the tee where he promptly hooked two balls into the water. He then hit a ball into the fairway, laid up in front of the green, then hit his approach shot into the water. He took a drop in the bunker and, because of the angle, was forced to play his next shot left-handed. The ball stayed in the bunker. Then he chunked it up on the green and two-putted for a 14.

And then, he withdrew from the U.S. Open.

The 17th hole at Sawgrass wasn’t supposed to be an island green, you know. When architect Pete Dye and former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman were building this new kind of golf course – with the spectator in mind as well as the golfer – the 17th hole was meant to be a par 3 with a lake. That’s all. But, you should know, TPC Sawgrass was built on swampland, which means that the builders were constantly looking for good sand to use. Most of the best sand seemed to be surrounding the 17th green, and so they dug deep into the dirt.

“You know,” Pete Dye’s wife Alice, a golf architect herself, said as she saw all the ground dug up around the green, “we should just make it an island green.”

It was a magical choice. Amateurs will hit more than 120,000 golf balls into the water surrounding the Island Green every year, so many that 12 times a year the course will send divers into the water just to retrieve the balls. If you want an amazing statistic, consider this one: Based on the number of balls found in the water and the number of rounds played a year, it’s been estimated that the average golfer hits THREE BALLS into water at No. 17 (though many golfers will hit a dozen or more golf balls into the water to skew the average).

Still, they keep coming back.

As far as tournament play goes, it’s probably the most telegenic golf hole in the world. Ten cameras catch every movement. The huge crowd surrounding the green gives it atmosphere. Each tee shot is a hold-your-breath moment.

Since they started having The Players Championship at Sawgrass in 1982, 8 percent of the professionals – about one in 12 – have made double bogey or worse. And when the wind howls like in 2002 and 2007, those numbers skyrocket. In 2007, 93 balls were hit in the water, roughly one out of every five shots.

All the golfers think about No. 17. They obsess over it. They argue about it. When golfer Brian Stuard played his first-ever practice round here this week, he wanted only to land the ball on the green (he did). Davis Love – who has shot a record 22 sub-par rounds at Sawgrass – says he avoids even thinking about No. 17 until he’s ready to hit the tee shot. When Fred Couples walks the 16th fairway, he will not even look at 17 – and Couples actually has some good memories at 17. He made a hole-in-one in 1997. And in 1999, he dumped a shot in the water, quickly and angrily teed up in the same spot, hit a shot, and watched it drop in the hole for the craziest par in the history of the hole.

“It’s a cut-and-dry thing,” golfer Daniel Summerhays says. “Either you’re OK or you’re dead.”

Famous golf holes
The Island Green
No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass
Par 3, 132 yards

Why it’s famous: The Island Green is instantly recognized by golf fans around the world because of all the water and for the many golfing disasters that it causes. For better and worse, it is probably the most talked-about hole in American golf.

A story: In 1985, a grocery manager named Angelo Spagnolo was one of four men competing in Golf Digest’s “America’s Worst Avid Golfer” competition. The four all played as poorly as you might expect – 179 was the low score – but the competition for worst was somewhat up for grabs as they went to the 17th hole.

And there, Spagnolo found lifelong fame. He hit 27 balls in the water. No. Really. Twenty-seven. He hit two dozen balls that were given to him and then was forced to hit range balls to complete the hole. At one point, an official suggested that, in the interest of ending the tournament before they all died of old age, Spagnolo might consider putting the ball on the cart path and going AROUND the lake, then putting the ball up the walkway on to the green. Spagnolo did that and made it to the green in 63 shots. From there, he was a mere three-putt away from his legendary 66. He became, unquestionably, the worst avid golfer in America.

“I just don’t give up,” Angelo told a reporter more than two decades later.

Yes, of course, there are many things that make up a great golf hole. Beauty. Difficulty. Scenery. History. Strategy. In the end, though, it probably comes down to the memories made there. Tom Watson chipped in on the 17th at Pebble Beach. Jean van de Velde utterly fell apart on the 18th at Carnoustie. Tiger Woods pointed at the hole as his putt dropped at No. 16 at Valhalla in Louisville. A photo of Ben Hogan hitting his 1-iron shot at Merion is probably the most famous in golf history, and the image of Jack Nicklaus raising his putter to the sky as his putt fell at No. 17 at Augusta is indelible.

The memories make those holes great.

In 1998, Len Mattiace was trailing by one going into the 17th hole at The Players Championship. Mattiace was a true local -- he had gone to high school just down the road in Ponte Vedre, the course was his golfing home. And everyone was rooting for the hometown guy, not only because of location. His mother, Joyce, who was in the final stages of lung cancer, was in the crowd, in a wheelchair, watching.

He stepped up to the tee and crushed his shot over the green and into the water. The tournament was lost. And then, he sort of got lost himself. He took a drop and hit it into the bunker. He hit the bunker shot back into the water. He finished with an 8. He finished a distant fifth in the tournament. But afterward, Mattiace then handled the loss with dignity, answering every question and making no excuses. Reporters and fans marveled at how he dealt with getting so close to a dream.

Years later, Len’s wife Kristen was talking to reporter Tim Rosaforte about that round. She said that not long after, someone had asked Len’s mother Joyce if she was upset about the way it had ended. She said: “No, I saw my son play a wonderful round. And then I read what people wrote about him, and I got to see the son I raised.” Joyce died three months later.

Len Mattiace would go on to a nice career. He would win a couple of PGA Tour events and lose in a Masters playoff to Mike Weir. But perhaps his greatest moment came at No. 17 at Sawgrass, where he hit the ball in the water but did not let the great hole beat him.

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With Woods living up to his legend, Tiger-mania is back

By Rex HoggardAugust 21, 2018, 4:13 pm

PARAMUS, N.J. – Just two weeks ago at the PGA Championship, fans pushed in along every corner of Bellerive’s 18th hole chanting, “Let’s go Tiger,” undeterred by the oppressive heat or the hopelessness of Tiger Woods’ title chances.

It was a fitting send-off for a player who would come up two strokes short in his quest to win his 80th PGA Tour title and his 15th major championship, not to mention an apropos snapshot of the massive St. Louis galleries who cheered Tiger’s every step.

It was also a sign of the times for the game’s most recognizable athlete.

Since Woods embarked on this most recent comeback from injury, the sense of excitement has steadily built. What began as a curiosity now looks like certainty.

Woods has repeatedly explained the 2018 season was always going to be filled with more questions than answers. He didn’t know how his repaired back would hold up under the pressure of competition or what swing he would have.

Fan didn’t know which Tiger would arrive on the first tee each week – Vintage Woods or the often-injured guy who managed to play just 19 events the last four years.

As Woods progressed, the answer seemed to be the former, with Tiger electrifying fans at the Valspar Championship on his way to a tie for second place.

“This entire year has been so different,” Woods said on Tuesday at The Northern Trust, his first playoff start since 2013. “I've had excitement. I've had people into it over the years, but this has been so different. We go back to how everyone received me at Tampa, that was very special and I had not received ovations and warmth like that.”

Woods tied for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and fourth at the Quicken Loans National. Despite Tiger's regular calls for patience and perspective, a fan base that was reluctant to dive back in with a self-described medical miracle is now wading into the deep end.

This zeal has built to a crescendo, with the PGA Championship emerging as the new raucous standard.

“I’ve played with him a lot during that time [in his prime],” Stewart Cink said late Sunday at Bellerive. “After the round yesterday, I commented it sounded like the old times, but the truth is it was more intense yesterday then I remember it being at any time.”

The Northern Trust: Articles, photos and videos

A portion of that Bellerive buzz was the byproduct of a community starved for major championship golf. And, to be fair, eventual champion Brooks Koepka earned his share of cheers for his third major triumph in his last six major starts. But the majority of that fervor was attibutable to Woods’ play.

Woods is not playing the role of ceremonial golfer and this is not a farewell tour. For the first time in a long time, his play has lived up to his legend.

There’s nothing better in sports then a comeback, and Woods may end up being the most compelling reclamation project golf has seen in decades.

“I think that everyone can relate to that because they have all gone through it. Everyone has got aches and pains, and whether you've had kids or not, you get to your 40s, you're feeling it, and I'm not the only one,” Woods explained. “The only difference is I'm an athlete and I'm playing at a high level and one of the best players in the world as what I do for a living. That's hard. People understand that. They understand, trying to compete against the younger generation, and it gets a little more difficult.”

Although Woods has given fans plenty to cheer along the way, this is about more than numbers on a scorecard. Approaching his 43rd birthday in December, Tiger has embraced his newfound health as much more than simply another competitive chapter. Woods’ comeback has been defined by a perspective that only comes when one faces their own competitive mortality.

He’s openly appreciative of this opportunity, and the crowds seem to realize that.

“I think that people are more, I guess appreciative. I don't want to make that sound wrong or anything but they know that I'm at the tail end of my career, and I don't know how many more years I have left,” he said. “I'm certainly not like I was when I was 22. Forty-two, it's a different ballgame.”

There’s still plenty of competitive compartmentalization, as evidenced by the all-too-familiar scowl he wore on Sunday at Bellerive. The difference, however, is that he’s more willing to offer the world a glimpse of a softer side where the sharp edges have been dulled by age and injury. On Tuesday, he was asked about his relationship with the crowds that line every fairway.

“Unfortunately, I've gotten to know a lot of them because I've hit a lot of wayward balls. I've signed a lot more gloves this year than I have in the past,” he laughed.

He’s also introduced an entirely new generation of fans to a concept only those of a certain age could previously understand: Tiger-mania.

Vandalized green at Sunshine Tour event (Micheal Hollick/Twitter) Getty Images

Vandals damage greens at site of Sunshine Tour event

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 21, 2018, 3:20 pm

This week's Sunshine Tour event will continue as scheduled despite at least six greens being vandalized.

Sunshine Tour player Michael Hollick posted to his Facebook page photos of greens at Wild Coast Sun Country Club in Port Edward, South Africa, showing severe damage.

He stated that disgruntled former employees were to blame.

"So the local community near the Wild Coast Sun weren’t happy about something so what do they do.... they go onto the golf course and dig up the last 6 greens!! Boggles my mind what goes through the heads of some people..... apparently there were some staff fired for illegal striking this past week and this was their retaliation."

Here's a look at the photos posted by Hollick:

Vandals also left a message on a flag that stated: "This Is The Start."

The Sunshine Tour stated that the event, the Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge, will still start on Wednesday, and that the tour has increased security measures. Here's a look at how the diligent grounds crew has repaired the putting surfaces:

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NBC Sports Group to Air More Than 70 Live Tournament Hours of FedExCup Playoffs

By Golf Channel Public RelationsAugust 21, 2018, 2:35 pm

Coverage Begins with First Round of The Northern Trust on Golf Channel; Final Three Playoff Events Airing Across Both Golf Channel & NBC

Following last week’s Wyndham Championship – the 44th and final event of the 2017-18 campaign – the PGA TOUR this week kicks off its season-culminating FedExCup Playoffs, with a $10 million first-place prize on the line at the conclusion of next month’s TOUR Championship. Beginning with the opening round of The Northern Trust on Thursday, NBC Sports Group in total will showcase more than 70 hours of live tournament coverage spanning across the four playoff events, including the final three stops airing exclusively across Golf Channel and NBC.

Being staged at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J., The Northern Trust will feature the top-125 players in the FedExCup standings having earned their PGA TOUR card for the 2018-19 season. Golf Channel will air live early round coverage on Thursday-Friday, Aug. 23-24, along with lead-in coverage on Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 25-26.

The following week, the top-100 players will be eligible to take part in the Dell Technologies Championship (Aug. 31-Sept. 3) at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass., the first of the final three events that will air exclusively on Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, weekend lead-in coverage) and NBC (Saturday-Sunday). The top-70 players then will advance to the BMW Championship (Sept. 6-9) at Aronimink Golf Club outside of Philadelphia, and ultimately, the top-30 will go on to the TOUR Championship (Sept. 20-23) at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.



Play-by-Play Host

Lead Analyst




The Northern Trust

Rich Lerner

Nick Faldo

Matt Gogel

Billy Ray Brown

Todd Lewis

Dell Technologies Championship

Dan Hicks

Steve Sands

Johnny Miller

Frank Nobilo

Gary Koch

Peter Jacobsen

Roger Maltbie, David Feherty, Notah Begay, Jim “Bones” Mackay

Steve Sands

George Savaricas

BMW Championship

Dan Hicks

Steve Sands

Johnny Miller

Gary Koch

Peter Jacobsen

David Feherty

Roger Maltbie, Mark Rolfing, Notah Begay, Jim “Bones” Mackay

Steve Sands, Todd Lewis

Jimmy Roberts (Essays)

TOUR Championship

Dan Hicks


Johnny Miller

Frank Nobilo

Gary Koch Peter Jacobsen David Feherty

Roger Maltbie, Notah Begay, Jim “Bones” Mackay

Steve Sands, Todd Lewis

Jimmy Roberts (Essays)


NEWS COVERAGE: Golf Channel’s news programs, Golf Central and Morning Drive, will provide comprehensive wraparound news coverage throughout the FedExCup Playoffs with interviews, highlights, on-site reports and features. Golf Channel analysts, including Notah Begay, Brandel Chamblee, David Duval, Trevor Immelman and Mark Rolfing, all will contribute to pre-and-post round coverage on Golf Central during the course of the playoff events. Chantel McCabe and Brian Bateman also will contribute to Morning Drive on-site from TPC Boston at the Dell Technologies Championship, Friday-Monday.


In addition to NBC Sports Group’s more than 70 dedicated live hours of tournament coverage surrounding the FedExCup Playoffs, fans also will have an opportunity to follow the action via PGA TOUR LIVE. Coverage of “Featured Groups” will be available during first and second round play at each of the four events leading up to linear broadcast coverage, along with “Featured Holes” during all rounds throughout the Playoffs airing concurrently during live broadcast coverage.


Golf Channel Digital will have comprehensive editorial coverage of the FedExCup Playoffs with columns and daily blogs. Coverage across the four playoff events will be led by Jay Coffin and Rex Hoggard (The Northern Trust); Hoggard and Will Gray (Dell Technologies Championship); Ryan Lavner and Nick Menta (BMW Championship); Hoggard and Mercer Baggs (TOUR Championship).

Golf Channel’s social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – will provide expanded social coverage surrounding the final stretch of the season. Golf Channel and NBC also will integrate social media content throughout its live tournament telecasts, incorporating social media posts from players and fans. News and tournament action surrounding the FedExCup Playoffs can be accessed at any time on any mobile device and online via Golf Channel Digital. Fans also can stream NBC Sports’ coverage of live golf via NBC and the NBC Sports App.



The Northern Trust (Aug. 23-26)

Thursday, Aug. 23                  7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (Featured Groups)  PGA TOUR LIVE

                                              2-6 p.m. (Live)                                   Golf Channel

Friday, Aug. 24                       7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (Features Groups)   PGA TOUR LIVE

                                              2-6 p.m. (Live)                                   Golf Channel

Saturday, Aug. 25                   1-2:45 p.m. (Live)                              Golf Channel

Sunday, Aug. 26                     Noon-1:45 p.m. (Live)                        Golf Channel

Dell Technologies Championship (Aug. 31-Sept. 3)

Friday, Aug. 31                       8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (Featured Groups)  PGA TOUR LIVE

                                              2:30-6:30 p.m. (Live)                         Golf Channel

Saturday, Sept. 1                    8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (Featured Groups)  PGA TOUR LIVE

                                              3-6:30 p.m. (Live)                              Golf Channel

Sunday, Sept. 2                      1-3 p.m. (Live)                                   Golf Channel

                                              3-6 p.m. (Live)                                   NBC

Monday, Sept. 3                     11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)               Golf Channel

                                              1:30-6 p.m. (Live)                              NBC

BMW Championship (Sept. 6-9)

Thursday, Sept. 6                    11 a.m.-3 p.m. (Featured Groups)      PGA TOUR LIVE

                                               2-6 p.m. (Live)                                   Golf Channel

Friday, Sept. 7                        11 a.m.-3 p.m. (Featured Groups)      PGA TOUR LIVE

                                              2-6 p.m. (Live)                                   Golf Channel

Saturday, Sept. 8                    Noon-3:30 p.m. (Live)                       NBC

                                              3:30-6 p.m. (Live)                              Golf Channel

Sunday, Sept. 9                       Noon-2 p.m. (Live)                            Golf Channel

                                              2-6 p.m. (Live)                                   NBC

TOUR Championship (Sept. 20-23)

Thursday, Sept. 20                  10 a.m.-1 p.m. (Featured Groups)      PGA TOUR LIVE

                                               1-6 p.m. (Live)                                   Golf Channel

Friday, Sept. 21                      10 a.m.-1 p.m. (Featured Groups)      PGA TOUR LIVE

                                              1-6 p.m. (Live)                                   Golf Channel

Saturday, Sept. 22                  12:30-2:30 p.m. (Live)                       Golf Channel

                                              2:30-6:30 p.m. (Live)                         NBC

Sunday, Sept. 23                     Noon-1:30 p.m. (Live)                       Golf Channel

                                              1:30-6 p.m. (Live)                              NBC

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Woods talks about Ryder Cup prospects in third person

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 1:47 pm

Conversations between Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods have gotten a little awkward.

That’s what happens when Woods, the U.S. Ryder Cup vice captain, needs to assess the prospects of Woods, the player.

“We’re talking about myself in the third person a lot,” he said with a chuckle Tuesday at the Northern Trust Open. “That’s one of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

“I’m one of the guys on the short list, and sometimes I have to pull myself out of there and talk about myself in the third person, which is a little odd.”

The Northern Trust: Articles, photos and videos

After placing second at the PGA Championship, Woods finished 11th on the U.S. points list with just eight months of tournament results. Three of Furyk’s four captain’s picks will be announced after the BMW Championship in three weeks, and barring a late injury, it’s almost a certainty that Woods will be one of those selected.

Still, Woods was named in February as an assistant for his third consecutive team competition, even though he told Furyk at the beginning of the year that he envisioned himself as a player on the 2018 squad.

“I’m very close to making that happen,” he said. “It’s been a long year, and that’s been one of my goals, to make the team. To be a part of that team you have to be one of the 12 best players, and I’m trending toward that.”