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How to the play the 17th at TPC Sawgrass

May 8, 2014

The par-3 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course isn’t the only dangerous hole on the golf course. Historically, there are eight others that have a higher stroke average in relation to par.

No. 17 has even averaged under-par in four Players Championships, matching the third hole for the most times at a par-3 on the Stadium.

And there’s still debate, 32 years after the first Players Championship was held at Pete Dye’s creation, about whether No. 17 and its island green is the most well-designed hole, and whether its place in the routing is fair.

But there’s no debating this point: The 17th hole is the most recognizable piece of real estate in golf. Players who believe hitting into the water at the hole is too penal, too late in the round, need to get used to it.

The hole plays anywhere from 125-to-145 yards during The Players, a wedge or 9-iron for almost every pro.

“It should be an easy shot,” said Bubba Watson.

Water and 20,000 fans make all the difference in why it’s not so easy under pressure.

Five players in the field were asked about playing No. 17.

Here’s what they said:



At No. 17: 14-over in 70 rounds (3.20), has hit seven balls in the water; 15 career birdies is the best of any player in the field.

“[No.] 17 was a hole that I had always made big numbers and it really kind of knocked me out of the tournament early on. In 2007, the year that I did win [The Players] for the first time, I changed my approach entirely to basically hit at the middle of the green and just try to make four pars and not make the big number.

“I think, by just aiming at the middle of the green, you make more birdies that way than if you fire at the pin. Certainly, you make less big numbers and that’s been the key, showing a little bit more respect for how it can take away two or three shots as opposed to just trying to get back one.”



At No. 17: 6-over in 18 rounds (3.33), has hit five balls in the water.

“It’s kind of the whole golf course. The first couple of years when you’re playing here, you get juiced up, you get pumped up so the ball goes a little farther. I’ve hit sand wedge over the green. When you hit a sand wedge that flies the green in the back water, you’re pretty surprised. I’m not skulling it. I’m hitting it pretty good.

“It’s a tough hole. It’s a great hole for the fans. It’s not really a risk-reward. It’s too short for that.”



At No. 17: 3-over in 64 rounds (3.05), has hit three balls in the water.

“The hole is firmer in May than it was in March and sometimes there’s not as much wind. It hasn’t changed the way I play the hole. I’ve been very careful to pick and choose my spots to be aggressive because you can make a double-bogey with one bad swing. It’s not a bad strategy to hit the middle of the green all four days. But I have to be smart about where I’m aggressive.

“When I’m playing the course with friends, I fire at the flag every time. When I’m in The Players, I’m not doing that.”



At No. 17: Made two pars and one birdie in the Junior Players in 2010.

“I remember playing it for the first time [in the Junior Players] and just saying, ‘all right ... where is that 10 paces on the green number and we’re just going to hit that and not mess around with the hole. I remember making birdie [in the final round]. I needed to go at the flag, and whether I needed to or not, I was going to, so I did.

“It’s famous here for the amount of people and the amazing atmosphere. That hole just gets your blood running. Yesterday [Tuesday, during a practice round] I had a pitching wedge downwind. I would have had to miss it wide to miss the green because it’s so soft. You’re standing over it and you realize where you are and it’s maybe the most famous hole in golf. So It’s pretty cool.’’



At No. 17: 1-over in 42 rounds (3.02), has hit four balls in the water.

“The atmosphere is one of the great ones in golf. Some guys don’t like that hole being No. 17, but I do. The atmosphere is rowdy, to say the least, especially late on the weekend. You can feel the energy out there and you can’t block out what’s on the line if you’re playing in that kind of position.

“As far as the approach to playing it, I think conditions determine that a lot but the middle of the green is a pretty good spot to go at any point. I think that we would all walk off there pretty happy with four 3s from the middle of the green and go to the 18th tee. I think they did a good job with that hole and I think it’s an exciting finish to this event.”

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