It measures only 137 yards on the official scorecard, but the par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass is anything but straightforward. Needing to strike a club ranging from a strong sand wedge to a chippy 9 iron, players continue to have nightmares of Pete Dye's devilish design while competing at The Players Championship.
Those nightmares have only gotten scarier in recent years as the number of water balls has increased the last two editions of The Players. Yet it is not all bad news for competitors as the island green has proven to be a tipping point in many championships including last year when Cameron Smith's tee shot in the final round set up a championship-winning birdie.
There are so many more memories from this par 3 (both good and bad). Rickie Fowler won The Players on the 17th by making three birdies on it on the same Sunday in 2015 (two of them in a playoff). Sergio Garcia won one in 2008 and lost one in 2013. Tiger Woods made a quadruple-bogey last time he played the event.
Tiger is also the author of probably the most famous moment on the hole, which incidentally was actually a putt. It was 2001 -- over 20 years ago now -- when Tiger hit his "better than most" putt on Saturday before overcoming a two-stroke deficit on Sunday to win for the 26th time in his career (he would also go on to win the Masters and hold all four majors and The Players at the same time).
How do you sum up a hole? You could recall all the memories anecdotally or perhaps relive last year's mayhem. Another is a dive into the numbers over the years. Your experience watching (or playing?) may be indicative of the field's experience in any given year.
Let's look at the figures including those from last year when a number of records tumbled.
- 5 -- Events in which the hole has played under par on average. Last year, it was 3.27 for the tournament and 3.81 on Saturday alone (the highest single day average since 2003), which made it the second most difficult hole on the golf course for the entire week.
- 64 -- Balls hit in the water in 2022. The all-time record (since the stat started being kept in 2003) is 93 in 2007. Over the last five years, this number has surpassed 60 three times (2017, 2021-22).
- 50 -- Most balls hit in the water during a round. That came in the first round in 2007, more than were hit in the water during the entire 2019 tournament. The second round of last year's tournament saw the third most of any round with 33.
- 10 -- Aces at No. 17. There were none from 2003-16, but there have been four in the last six years: Willy Wilcox (2016), Sergio Garcia (2017), Ryan Moore (2019) and Shane Lowry (2022).
- 12 -- Highest score ever on this hole came in 2005 when Bob Tway quadrupled the par. It ties the highest score on any hole at TPC Sawgrass during a Players (12 was also shot on the 4th hole once). In 2021, Ben An made a 11 in the first round.
- 1,051 -- Strokes over par the hole has played since 2003. This has increased exponentially the last two seasons with 92 double bogeys or worse being carded. Comparatively, all other par 3s measuring less than 150 yards on the PGA Tour have played 4,732 strokes under par.
- 65.96 -- The percentage at which players found the green in regulation in 2022, the lowest in championship history. The highest rate came in 2014 when the field found the putting surface at a whooping 86.79% clip.
With all of that mind, we'll end with a thought ahead of this year's event.
The 17th tends to draw golf fans to one side of the aisle or the other. Some believe it to be overrated and given too much air time while others enjoy the madness and the need for contenders to hit a simple shot in the midst of an otherwise complicated stretch of the championship.
Tiger said this in 2009: "I've always thought that that hole is too gimmicky for the 17th hole of a championship."
From a player's perspective, it makes sense why some may lean this way. You play well for 16 holes and one poor wedge shot could lead to a double bogey or worse and sink your championship aspirations. Perhaps it is too penal, but then again, the best players in the world should be able to hit a green from 137 yards.
It can also be considered just a cog in the machine that is a great finishing stretch at TPC Sawgrass. Nos. 16-18 demand players to step up and hit golf shots. Whether they can ultimately decides championships and defines legacies. There will be plenty to watch for on No. 17 this year (as there is every year), especially when the leaders roll up on Saturday and Sunday with a chance to card anything from a two to a seven.
"It is like having a 3 o'clock appointment for a root canal," Mark Calcavecchia said in 2009. "You're thinking about it all morning and you feel bad all day. You kind of know sooner or later you've got to get to it."