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Record 50 balls in water at island hole

17th Sawgrass, 2007 Players Championship
David Walberg/SI
The par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Camilo Villegas dropped his club, then dropped his head. His ball dropped a few seconds later - right into the murky lagoon surrounding the famed 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass.

Villegas hit one of 50 balls into the water surrounding the island green Thursday, helping break the single-round tournament record of 45 set in 2000.

"That was certainly the toughest shot," said Phil Mickelson, who made par.

About a third of the field found water at No. 17 during the first round of The Players Championship and made the short, somewhat embarrassing walk to the drop area for a third shot.

Davis Love III, Ben Curtis, Kent Jones and Trevor Immelman couldn't even hit the green from there, needing a third tee shot to land on the 90-by-85 foot putting surface. They finished with quadruple-bogey 7s.

The 128-yard hole played tougher than any other Thursday, mostly because wind gusts reached 39 mph and swirled in different directions.

There were 12 birdies, 70 pars, 26 bogeys, 23 double bogeys and 12 "others'' at No. 17. The daunting hole left many golfers shaking their head, questioning their club selection and feeling either frustration or relief as they walked to the 18th tee.

By comparison, 57 balls were hit in the water at 17 last year - in four rounds.

"It's playing very tough out there because the last thing you want to do is try and hit a shot far enough to get to the back and then the wind die on you or try and hit one to the front and have the wind gust on you," first-round leader Rory Sabbatini said. "It's going to be a very tough test of patience out there."

It's the shortest hole on the Stadium Course, and it's rarely more than a short iron. But on a windy day, it can wreak havoc on even the best golfers in the world.

Paul Casey set the tone Thursday.

He was in the first group to reach the 17th tee, and his tee shot came up short. Playing partner Charles Warren followed suit. Nathan Green landed his shot safely on, barely avoiding the entire threesome having to stop at the drop area.

That happened a few hours later, when Jose Coceres, Hunter Mahan and Richard S. Johnson each splashed their tee shots.

Love was in the next group and did the same thing, making it four in a row.

The gallery seemed to enjoy each of them. Of course, that's part of the hole's lure.

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