3. What’s your best memory from your win?
McCumber: I knew the course fairly well. I only played nine holes on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday afternoon, I was out on the [practice] green, and Lee Trevino, who was the analyst, and Bob Goalby, who I knew from my early years, asked if I wanted to play nine holes and fill them in on some things they could use on their telecast since I was a local guy. I said, “Sure,” and shot 31. Lee said, “Kid, don’t get in your way this week.” And I kind of played that way. I’m walking up to the 18th green on Sunday, and I’m playing with the late, great Payne Stewart and David Frost. They had fallen back at that point, but I’m walking up to the green and I know I’ve won unless I break my leg and fall into the water. I look across the pond and see a sign, and it looks like a commercial artist did it. It wasn’t some family that had spray-painted it. There was a sign that was 10 feet long maybe on a canvas. And it said “Jacksonville’s Winner.” And emotionally it triggered a flood of tears of what it meant. The practical side of me said, “I can’t believe someone would do that, they didn’t even know I was going to win.” That was pretty nice of them.
Stenson: It was a great final-round 66 for me. I had my whole family there, which was great. We celebrated my dad’s 60th birthday that week. He said he could not have asked for a better birthday present, and I guess I can agree.
Wadkins: Back then, when we played at the old Sawgrass Country Club, I thought it was the hardest course I’d ever seen. The wind could be just brutal. The greens were tiny. If you miss a fairway, you’d be down with the snakes and gators. You could lose an arm and a leg in that rough. It took a lot of patience to win it, which was rare for me.
Leonard: The most memorable moment is probably that shot at 17. After watching Len Mattiace hit it in the water a couple of times, I stood up there with a 9-iron and hit it on the green. A sense of relief came from that. It’s something I will never forget.
Ames: The fun part was that I had a six-shot lead going into the last two holes, which was nice. It’s better than having one and trying to just get it in. In some respects, I was freewheeling it, which was good because those two last holes aren’t easy.
Choi: My best memory was my tee shot on the 17th in the final round. It was the most important shot of the tournament for me. If I hadn't made that birdie, I wouldn't have won the tournament.
Scott: The atmosphere of the 17th and 18th holes on Sunday certainly stuck with me.
Norman: Probably the disappointment of not going 72 holes that week without a bogey. My first bogey and only bogey came on the 13th hole on the final day. I would love to have that par putt back on the 13th green. It’s pretty rare to go bogey-free for an entire tournament. I had heard that Lee Trevino did it in 1974 in New Orleans, and I would have been the next player to do so, some 20 years later.
Hayes: I remember the wind at Sawgrass Country Club. The year I won we had what we called Black Friday. You had to tie your hat down. I was sharing a condo with Tom Kite that week, and on the second day I went out early and he went out late. I passed him on No. 1 when I was making the turn. I had played well on the front, which was brutal. I watched a couple of guys hit full shots off of up-slopes that couldn’t have gone more than 10 yards. So I wished him luck. I think he shot 85 that day. I lost four shots coming in and shot 74. That turned out to be a great score. Even though I’m an Oklahoma boy, I never liked the wind. But it helped me win. Winning the Players was a great gift. I played 10 years after that, on the exemption you got for winning. It relieved me from having to play every week. I was getting bored of that by then and was getting older. I had two boys, young ones, and I wanted to see them grow up a little bit. There’s nothing I’d want back. It really helped me, especially with my family, even if I couldn’t maintain that level of play afterward.
4. Is the par-3 17th a good hole or a gimmick?
Choi: It is a great hole. It may be short but there really is no room for error on that hole. Depending on the pin placement, you really don't have too big of an area to land the ball.
Stenson: It is the signature hole of the course, and I love it. I think it is great that the best players in the world can get nightmares over a wedge shot. I love short par 3s with lots of danger. You know you will get the reward if you hit a good shot and get penalized if you do not. I do not like the 229-yard par-3s that seem to be today’s fashion. I know it partly comes from a course owner telling the designer he wants an 8,000-yard championship course, which means you cannot have any short par 3s. But almost all of the world’s great par 3s are between wedge and 7-iron.
Hayes: Great hole. Mainly because of the way the wind blows through there. Guys are scared of it for a reason -- you don’t have too many options. I hit maybe two balls in there. The back of the green is really flat, but you need height to get it to stay there. What people don’t realize is that the drop area is no piece of cake either. The sand under there makes the turf so tight, you can skull it as easy as you please.
Wadkins: I always liked 17. Very exciting hole. You need to have tunnel vision to play it. You need to look at the flagstick and nothing else. Start looking around and you start to see way too much for your own good. There’s a lot of water out there. I always tried to aim at the center of the green and work it toward the flag. I put it in the water a few times, but I think I played it pretty well over the years.
Floyd: Oh, it’s certainly not a gimmick. There’s plenty of room. At that length, the trick of the hole is the wind. It’ll switch on you, kinda like No. 12 at Augusta. They’re very comparable: You never know where the wind is, so you’re never sure of yourself.
Leonard: I think it can be a very difficult hole if the green is firm and the wind is blowing. I know I’d rather keep a 5-iron down that try and keep a wedge down out of the wind. It can be a very difficult hole. You can hit a pretty good shot and make a 5. Especially a couple of times when the greens had gotten really firm, and you land it on top and it keeps rolling back. I think those days are a little bit gone. I think they want the golf course to play fair. And they realize with the bermuda greens, that they don’t need them to get fast and firm for the course to play difficult.
Ames: I think it’s more gimmicky than anything else. I’ve actually played that hole very well in the past. I don’t remember too many times being in that water, I can only recall once.
Scott: The 17th hole, while a gimmick, it has become an iconic hole in the game of golf.
Norman: I like No. 17, and to be honest there would not be a player who does not feel the anxiousness in his stomach when he steps up to that that tee shot, especially when in contention to win on the final day. It certainly makes for some good TV. But we have to give the credit on that hole to Alice, not Pete. The island green at 17 was really her idea and it’s become one of the most famous par 3s in all of golf.
Kite: I think Pete may have gone over the edge on No. 17. Originally, the plan was not to make it an island. It was supposed to be a peninsula. But they found that the best sand on the course was on that spot, so the lake grew and grew. Eventually, they just made it an island. The way it turned out, it’s one of the most recognizable holes in golf. It does produce a lot of excitement, but it’s a little too black-and-white for me. I would have liked to see more room to bail out.
McCumber: I’ve gone around and around on that in my head and even had this discussion with Pete. At one time, I felt if I had built a course, say in Scottsdale, and I designed a 145-yard hole and put an out-of-bounds white line around the green and let everyone play it, it would be the same as playing No. 17 at TPC. Would that be a gimmick? Is that the way you want to design a hole? I’ve gone through periods where I think maybe it is gimmicky, but after all these years, I don’t think so. It’s just one of those holes where you can’t wait to get there.