To its detractors, the par-3, 17th hole at Pete Dye’s TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course has been called quirky, gimmicky and out-of-place. But how often have you heard any of Pete Dye’s golf courses described as commonplace?
While propriety is always a subjective measure, the one thing that cannot be debated is that this devilish par 3, possibly the most famous – or infamous, depending upon your perspective – hole in the world, plays havoc with the mental posture of the best golfers in the world. Since 1983 at the PLAYERS Championship, the 17th hole has played more than 1,400 strokes over par!
In 2009, Mark Calcavecchia summarized the player’s perspective: “It is like having a 3 o’clock appointment for a root canal. 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.”
Bob Dylan once wailed, “What looks large from a distance, close up ain’t never big,” and such is the case at the 17th. Despite a green complex that crests its encasing pond seemingly like Atlantis, the hole only plays to an average of 137 yards. But in the crucible of pressure that is the PLAYERS Championship, it can instill the same fear and scores that any Saturday morning golfer feels when having to clear the pond at your average muni.
Consider that in 2005, Bob Tway posted a score of 12 on the 17th hole in the final round, the highest individual score every tallied on the hole during the tournament. But Tway has plenty of company; Robert Gamez made an 11 there in 1990, the same year Phil Blackmar posted a 10. In 2012, Angel Cabrera scored a nine.
Over the last decade, one out of every 10 tee shots at this 17th during the PLAYERS finds its final resting place in the murky depths that surround it. But don’t spend too much time feeling sorry for the best golfers in the world – during the rest of the year, estimates say that 120,000 golf balls meet their fate in the very same pond.