TPC Sawgrass' 17th hole 'shouldn't be that big a deal'

Spectators watch golfers on the 17th green during a practice round for The Players Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach on Tuesday. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Published: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 8:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 8:52 p.m.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — I've covered The Players Championship dozens of times. I've played TPC Sawgrass at least 20 times. Heck, my two brothers helped clear the palmetto brush and dodged rattlesnakes as shirtless workers when they were building the course.

But I still don't get it.

I get why fans love it. I get why they love to gamble beers on Titleists ending up in the water. I get why it's the most photographed hole in golf.

But to me, the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass is a little like Kim Kardashian. The camera loves it, but it shouldn't be that big a deal.

“It's not really risk-reward,” said Bubba Watson, who has a history of struggling on the hole. “It's too short for that.”

Exactly. It's a wedge, maybe a 9-iron. Watson has flown the green with a sand wedge. It's a chip-and-putt hole with a green that has more square footage than your house.

And aren't these guys supposed to be good?

Now, I do get it on Sunday. I get how it can make palms sweaty and make a golfer's stomach feel like it's full of angry birds. But a lot of that is because of the Sunday pin placement, tucked to the right bringing a pot bunker into play along with the water.

With what can be on the line, it's almost like trying to make a free throw in a tie game on the road. It shouldn't be that hard, it just is.

The rest of the week, that's what I don't get.

Sure, the green is firm. Sure, a chunked shot will end up in the water. Sure, too much adrenaline can be your enemy.

Again, we're talking about the best field in golf. Sometimes I'm amazed that any balls end up in the water. Yet over the past 10 years, the best players in the world have rinsed 496 of them.

It's 137 yards, for crying out loud.

“I changed my approach in 2007 (when he won),” said Phil Mickelson, who has the most birdies of any player in the field on the Island Hole. “It was a hole where I had always made big numbers and it really knocked me out of the tournament early on.

“(In 2007), I basically hit at the middle of the green and just try to make four pars and not make a big number. It's funny because by just aiming at the middle of the green, I think you make more birdies than if you fire at the pin.”

Exactly. Flip it on the green and if you make the putt great, but assure yourself of a par. That wouldn't be much fun for the people who treat the bank to the left of the hole as their living rooms and react as if they are at a football game. But it would be a smart strategy for anyone who is not one back with two to play.

Heck, right-handed Rickie Fowler hit the green left-handed on Tuesday during his practice round.

While 17 is notoriously recognized, it should only be as interesting as the wind. If there is no wind, it should be a breeze. I know, a gust got Paul Goydos in the 2008 playoff. But you can't always count on that wind.

In fact, NBC's Johnny Miller said on a conference call earlier this week that on days when the wind is visiting elsewhere, the 17th should play like a real par-3 hole.

“If I owned the golf course,” he said, “I would definitely have a back tee on 17 and another 20 yards, anyway, if there's no wind, no projected wind.

“I would like to see the guys at least hit an 8-iron, maybe even a 7-iron. I just think it would be just a more exciting hole than throwing up a 9-iron or wedge up there.”

Totally agree. I'm not trying to kill your buzz if you're preparing to watch the weekend of The Players. That buzz has already had the volume turned down because of the absence of Tiger Woods.

In fact, without Tiger, the event could use a lot of train wrecks on 17. Even if they make no sense.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at

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