The Reuters global sports blog
17th at Sawgrass — gimmick or greatest finish in golf?
Tiger Woods and Adam Scott have described it as gimmicky. Phil Mickelson believes it is the midway point in golf’s most exciting finish but former British Open champion Mark Calcavecchia says it has the same effect as a nervous wait for a nasty dental appointment.
It is the infamous par-three 17th at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, the signature hole on the Stadium Course which will host the Players Championship this week for the 28th time.
Arguably more photographed than any other hole in golf, the 17th strikes fear into the heart of every competitor at the tournament regarded by the players as the unofficial fifth major.
Although the smallest hole on the par-72 Stadium layout, it unquestionably boasts the biggest reputation with its tantalising island green that narrows to the right side.
Shot selection is paramount, especially in the wind, and the tournament has often been decided there, a bone of contention for world number one Woods.
“It’s a wonderful hole but I don’t agree with it being the 17th or 71st hole of a championship because I think it’s a little gimmicky in that sense,” said the American, whose only victory at Sawgrass came in 2001.
“I think it’s a great eighth hole or another part of the golf course. It’s a challenge. There’s no getting around it, you have to hit the proper shot to the proper distance.”
Australian Scott, who won the 2004 title, accepts the hole’s unusual challenge.
“It’s part of this event and it’s one of the reasons why this event has become what it is,” he said.
“Playing it is not that much fun but to watch it is probably a lot of fun. It’s a gimmick to have an island green like that but … it’s still pretty fair. It’s a big green.”
Three-times major winner Mickelson loves the 17th hole just the way it is.
“I think it adds for the most exciting finish in golf, combined with 16 and 18, and I wouldn’t recommend any changes,” the American left-hander said.
“Seventeen provides a great chance for a birdie, but also a double bogey or worse. This is one of the few holes that I can think of that has no bail-out, no margin of error, no area for recovery. It’s an all-or-nothing type shot.”
For the players, surviving 17 is like walking a circus tightrope without a net. The slightest of miscalculations, or perhaps even a sudden switch in the breeze, can result in a big number and a ruined scorecard.
“It’s like having a three o’clock appointment for a root canal,” 1989 British Open champion Calcavecchia said.
“You’re thinking about it all morning and you feel (bad) all day. You kind of know that, sooner or later, you’ve got to get to it.”
What’s your take on the par-three 17th? Is it good or bad for the Players Championship?