TPC Sawgrass 17th hole: What you need to know before The Players Championship 2019
The most famous par-3 shot in golf might actually get a little tough this year
While most PGA Tour pros might not think the most famous par 3 in golf is a super difficult shot, their opinion could change with this year's move of the Players Championship to March for the first time since 2006. The reason? Windy conditions could bump the scoring average at a hole where it's hovered around par for the past decade.
"... The 17th hole for the last few years has been pretty much a wedge, but ... there's the opportunity to hit 8- and 7-irons into that hole at this time of year, which completely changes the complexion of that golf hole," said Justin Rose this week at TPC Sawgrass.
That could make coming home in breezy conditions on that hole and the much more difficult par-4 18th tee shot a monumental task for some. Traditionally we see the final two holes played in an average of 30 strokes over the course of a week. But if the wind does pick up in Jacksonville this week, playing them in 30 could win you the golf tournament.
NBC analyst Jim "Bones" Mackay agreed with Rose.
"You'll see a significant change in the wind," Mackay told ESPN. "In May, the wind direction tends to be downwind. That's not a tough read typically. You get out there in March and the wind is like the 12th at Augusta, bouncing around. Everything is harder. If it's cold and windy, you might be hitting 6 or 7-iron there. It's really, really hard."
I have to confess that the 17th is not my favorite hole. It's fine, but it's become a little mainstream for my liking, and I think it necessarily takes away from an elite finish -- Nos. 16 and 18 are awesome in their own right for very different reasons. Still, it has produced so many unbelievable moments over the years simply because of its fame, and not just on the nervy weekend tee shots.
"I'm trying to not be cliche and say Tiger's putt on 17, but I mean, there's only been so many years I can remember watching it," said Justin Thomas this week when asked for his favorite island green memory.
"I know this doesn't really answer your question in terms of watching on TV, but my rookie year I played with Sergio on Sunday and he made a putt on 17 that was -- other than probably Jordan's putt he made in the Masters on 16 on Sunday last year was the loudest I've ever heard a golf course. It was insane.
"That pin was back right like always. I think he was tied for the lead or something like that, and ... he hit it probably 45 feet on the top left tier and he made it. And it was so loud, and I remember like that was my first, wow, this is a pretty big event. This is a pretty big putt."
Sergio is part of the hole's history, too, as he made the most recent of the eight holes in one on No. 17. His came in 2017 just after his Masters victory and was just the second since 2002. Here's a look at a few other fast facts about the island green.
- The highest score ever made at No. 17 is a 12 by Bob Tway in 2005.
- There have been eight aces with the most recent being Sergio Garcia's in 2017.
- The scoring average has only been under par one time since 1997 when it was 2.99 in 2014.
- Adam Scott has the most birdies on No. 17 since 2003 with 15. Two European Ryder Cup players -- Martin Kaymer and Sergio Garcia -- both have 13.
- On the flip side, Aaron Baddeley -- who contended at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational -- has the most balls in the water since 2003 with 13. Phil Mickelson and Bob Tway have nine a piece.
- Only two golfers have ever birdied No. 17 in all four rounds. Kyle Stanley in 2017 and Paul Azinger in 1987.
Maybe the most hilarious shot in the history of the 17th is the hole out Fred Couples made for par at the 1999 Players after hitting his first in the water.
And the best run in recent years actually came in the same year Thomas mentioned above. Garcia willed his way into a playoff on the back of that putt but got bested when Rickie Fowler birdied the hole three (!) different times on Sunday and took down both Garcia and Kevin Kisner.
So despite my eye rolling and hollering about the holes at TPC Sawgrass that are better than this one, No. 17 will undoubtedly provide all kinds of drama early on in the tournament and -- more specifically -- as the leaders come home on Sunday. With the wind and pressure turned up, the odds that we see something crazy are higher than they've been in years, which makes the most famous par 3 in golf must-see TV.
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