PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., May 8 — At his Tuesday morning press conference, Tiger Woodsripped the 137-yard 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, the signature feature of the course, home of this week's Players Championship.
The fledgling course designer, coming off a win at the Wachovia last weekend, was asked if the water hazard that claims so many balls ought to have been filled in with dirt, in light of all the changes to the coursein the last year.
"You'd probably lose the allure of the hole," Woods said. "I've always thought that that hole is too gimmicky for the 17th hole of a championship. As far as the 8th hole, I think that would be a fantastic 8th hole, but not as the 71st hole of a tournament or 17th hole of your round."
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To say the 17th is the centerpiece of the Players Championship would be an understatement. The PGA Tour Webcasts the often calamitous action from the hole, which graces the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated Golf Plus, as it has so many other publications for years. The grass banks to the left of the water hazard are among the most prized pieces of real estate for spectators.
All of which makes Woods's "gimmicky" comment the equivalent of telling the bride that she has a zit on her nose. He seemed to realize what he'd done and tried to backpedal when he was asked later in the press conference, "Why do you dislike the 17th so much?"
"I didn't say that," Woods said.
The question was rephrased: "Why do you think it's — you just wish it was like an 8th hole?"
"Exactly. I just think it's a wonderful hole, but I don't agree with it being the 17th or the 71st hole of a championship because I just think that it is a little gimmicky in that sense. I think it's a great 8th hole or another part of the golf course. ... I just don't think that it's the right feel. I understand that fans love it."
Hold on. Did he think the island hole was gimmicky or wonderful? Could it be both? Woods cracked a joke when he was pressed to further explain his position, and he finally gave up.
"I don't know," he said. "I know you guys are digging here (laughter), but I don't know."
Inevitably, Phil Mickelson was also asked about No. 17 after Woods made his comments. He disagreed with Tiger's assessment, saying "I think it adds to the most exciting finish in golf combined with 16 and 18." Tell us what you think of No. 17.