Sawgrass designer Dye stands by the 17th

Pete Dye says Tiger Woods never told him No. 17 at Sawgrass was "gimmicky".
Ken May

What was your reaction when Tiger Woods called the island-green 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass 'gimmicky' at last year's Players Championship?
\nTiger said to me one time that he thought the 17th hole came at the wrong point on the course. He didn't tell me it was gimmicky. He said that it just comes so late in the game. So I said, "Why don't you just change the flags?" He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "All you have to do is get a hold of them up at Sawgrass and just switch out the flags." He kind of laughed. "I don't think I could get that done," he said.

\nWould you consider reconfiguring the layout, at least for the Players?
\nTake the 17th hole along with the 16th and 18th — those three holes can be disastrous, and that's the way the course is designed. The 17th wouldn't have the notoriety if it were the third hole. One time I hit an 8- or a 9-iron to the green and thought, "This hole isn't too tough." The player I was with said, "It's not that tough when the only things watching you are me and that frog."

\nDo you generally take note when players critique your designs?
\nI've talked to so many professional golfers, and each one of them has a different outlook on any given hole. Vijay Singh, I talk to him about a hole, he's got one idea. Then I talk to Jim Furyk, and it's not the same. My wife (Alice), I adhere to her opinion more than I do the rest of them, otherwise I won't get dinner.

\nWhat's the biggest issue facing everyday golfers?
\nCost. Fewer people are playing but they're paying more. If you add tees and length to a course, you have to escalate the cost. And they're not only lengthening courses, they're putting in new grasses and increasing the speed of the greens. "We're not as fast as Augusta!" — that's all superintendents talk about. And now you've got a $40,000 machine cutting them.

\nSo what's the solution?
\nThe escalating costs will stop that. The USGA and the Augustas — they haven't been listening. We have to cut back costs and make courses more environmentally sensitive. You don't have to have emerald green from one end of the course to the other. Look at a club like Torrey Pines. The USGA moves in the day after the Buick, spending money like you've never heard of. One of these days, they'll realize what they're doing, or they're going to be out of business.

\nWhich of your designs makes you the most proud?
\nTeeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo (in the Dominican Republic). When I started that in 1970, there wasn't a paved road within 35 miles. Now there are 3,500 homes, an airport, 50,000 people working. I'm going to be egotistical with this — that golf course started the whole thing down there.

\nWhy have you never built a true links course overseas?
\nI've always wanted to but I never got the opportunity. Most of the courses I try to build, I'm on site. I'm not sure I want to spend all that time overseas.

\nYou're still going strong at 82. When will you retire?
\nWhen they put me in a box (laughs).

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