It might be the most-recognizable hole in golf, possibly the most famous, too. It's No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass. You know it from video games and from that one Tiger Woods putt. You know the one. Players know it as one of the two final nuisances (the other being the tee shot on No. 18) that stand in the way of finishing a Players Championship round at TPC Sawgrass.
"It sort of feels like when you're a teenager and you're asking out that girl that you want to say yes to you," PGA Tour pro Mark Wilson told PGATour.com. "I mean, it really feels like that. Your heart starts pounding, and you're like, 'Why? It's just a pitching wedge or a 9-iron.' But you have no bail out on all four sides and the wind is usually whipping and not always in a consistent direction that we can figure out. So that's what makes it really difficult."
The 17th has become wildly overrated. It's not a great hole architecturally-speaking. It doesn't have the same dynamics as, say, No. 10 at Riviera or No. 13 at Augusta National. But it is memorable, and it is unique and it does determine who wins and loses one of the biggest tournaments of the year. And all of that from just over 100 yards away.
"To me, 17 is one of the easiest holes we play all year ... on Tuesday and Wednesday," Justin Rose told PGATour.com. "Thursday, when you've got a scorecard in your hands, it ramps up. You feel your heart rate elevate on the tee box, so be prepared for that."
Plenty of players as good as Rose have watched their tournament hopes drown in the surrounding water. Every year those waters see thousands of balls from amateurs like you and me, and they even see dozens from pros.
At least 25 balls have been hit in the water on the par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass every year since 2003. Last year, there were 29 alone in the second round. That's the single most in any round other than the first round in 2007 when there were 50 (!). Overall, in the last 15 years, more balls have been hit in the water in the first round (237) than the second (198), and more have been hit in the water in the final round (145) than the third (123).
Here are a few other stats on the 17th over the last 15 years.
- The longest putt made at No. 17 is 59 feet, 9 inches, by Bernhard Langer.
- The field is a combined +762 total over par in the last 15.
- Hole Nos. 16-18 at TPC Sawgrass have seen 1,889 water balls, while Nos. 1-15 have seen 1,818.
- Aaron Baddeley has hit more balls in the water than anyone (13).
- Graham DeLaet has never hit it in the water (18 for 18).
Interestingly, this hole's real teeth don't show until you get onto the green. Traditionally, it is the second-easiest green to hit but the eighth-hardest hole. That tells me that players get on the green and let their guard down. That's when three-putts start happening.
Of course, if you're Sergio Garcia last year, you don't even need to take out the putter. This hole has only been aced eight times, but Garcia did it in the wake of his Masters win in 2017, and it was pretty awesome.
That's uncommon, though. What's more common is what Russell Knox did a few years ago when he hit three in the water and made a 9. Zac Blair did it last year, too. This hole can get in your head, and you might never get it out.
So while coverage of the 17th will be overcooked over the next few days, and the hole itself is overrated by the general public, I think it's actually a great determinant for a champion. Like Rose said, this hole is nothing special on Tuesday and Wednesday, but with the heat turned up late on a Saturday or Sunday and several top players breathing down your neck, that island green shrinks to the size of a thimble and you're all alone with no choice but to try and put a swing your ball. Good luck.