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New camera experiment for Sawgrass 17th

One of the most dramatic par 3s in golf will be captured by a camera positioned as high as 60 feet in the air and capable of moving up to 60 mph as it tracks the shot on the island-green 17th hole next week at The Players Championship.

NBC Sports plans to introduce ``Cable Cam'' for the par-3 17th on the TPC at Sawgrass, executive producer Tommy Roy said Wednesday. Still to be determined is making sure the camera, which slides along a cable from left of the tee box to the end of the water behind the green, is not a distraction to the players.

``This is the perfect hole,'' Roy said. ``I believe the 17th at TPC Sawgrass has become the most recognizable par 3 in golf. It contends with the 12th at Augusta in terms of angst it puts in players as they stand on the tee. Just being able to have a new angle of this whole scene is a significant addition to the telecast.''

The 146-yard hole is an island in the middle of a pond, framed by railroad ties with one bunker and not much margin for error. Players often don't know if their tee shot is safe until it lands or splashes.

There have been six aces, and far more disasters. The most spectacular was when Len Mattiace, trailing Justin Leonard by one shot in 1998, twice hit into the water and took an 8.

Roy said Moe Davenport at ESPN came up with the idea a few years ago. Depending on how taut operators make the cable, the camera can be positions as high as 60 feet or as low as ground level.

Roy wanted the cable on the right side of the hole, but feared it could be a distraction to players coming up the fairway or on the green at the adjacent par-5 16th.

``It's an experiment, but I'm confident it will be good,'' Roy said. ``I need to see how much noise it makes. They're telling me none, but until I hear the thing ... if it goes as promised, it should be pretty incredible.''

NBC has used ``Cable Cam'' at the Breeders' Cup, and Roy said it was most recently used at the start and finish line during the Daytona 500. It is believed to be the first time it has been used at a golf tournament.

What makes the camera valuable is capturing the ball and the flag at the same time. Roy mentioned Corey Pavin hitting 4-wood into the 18th green at Shinnecock Hills when he won the 1995 U.S. Open.

``The reason the Corey Pavin shot is so memorable is we actually had the ball and the target in the frame at the same time,'' he said. ``You could see where the ball was going. The way golf has to be covered in most places, the ball flies up against a blue sky and you don't know if it's right, left, short or long.

``With this, theoretically you should be able to have an idea where the ball is going.''


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