The 17th at TPC Sawgrass: Water Tour-ture

1 of 10 Robert Beck/SI
The 17th at TPC Sawgrass: Water Tour-tureMike Weir once hit the green right-handed in practice; Vijay Singh did the same left-handed. But the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass is nothing to be toyed with when it counts at The Players Championship. In 2007, after missing short putts on 15 and 16, Sean O'Hair, playing in the last group with Phil Mickelson, took aim at the flag on 17. His shot went straight at the stick, then skipped over the back of the green and into the soup. He made 7, the most recent big-time casualty on arguably America's most notorious hole. O'Hair dropped from second to 11th place. "It's hard to make something happen on 17," O'Hair says a year later. Something good, anyway. Len Mattiace was a shot off the lead at the 1998 Players when, with his dying mother watching from a wheelchair, he made a quintuple-bogey 8. "It's like having a three o'clock appointment for a root canal," Mark Calcavecchia once said of 17. "You're thinking about it all morning, because you know sooner or later you've got to get to it." Herewith, then, are the good, the bad and the traumatic at 17.
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Man With a Plan: How Aaron Baddeley will play the 17th this year "How do I plan to attack the 17th this year? Safely. If the pin is on the front you sort of try to hit it a little behind it. If the pin is on the left side you try and hit it a little to the right of it, and so on. You sort of play to the fat part of the green. I hit one in the water a couple years ago. I don't know if I did last year. Three is a good score. You're not losing a shot to the field. If the water was grass, it would probably be the easiest par-3 in the world."
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Niclas Fasth "It's a very tricky little hole, and a bit gimmicky because it's so severe. I wouldn't call it bad, but it's quite severe. "It's fun for the spectators, but as a player you like to be able to go for the flag and know that if you miss, the ball's going to go into the bunker or rough. But this is all or nothing."
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Boo Weekley "It's a good hole. You've got to focus on what shot you're trying to hit and really stand up there and stick with it if the wind starts blowin'. "Don't even look at the flag. Just look at the center of the green and hit it. For me it's a two-club difference from the front of that green to the back — pitching wedge to 8-iron."
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Justin Leonard "I've made a lot of 3s, a 5, a couple of 2s. I do like the hole — after I've hit it right in the middle of the green. When the pin is on the front part you're trying to hit it on the slope and have it come back. It depends on how firm it is. "Your first order of business is just keeping it dry. I've probably hit as much as 7-iron there, in the wind. Davis [Love III] and I both hit it in the water there a few years ago. Usually from the drop area it's a little easier because you're hitting a sand wedge as opposed to an 8- or 9-iron. "At Pebble Beach, number 7 this year was straight downwind, pin in the front, and there wasn't really anywhere to bail out there, either."
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Luke Donald "I think I put it in the water once last year and made a bogey. I've done okay on the hole — I almost had a hole-in-one with a 9-iron to that front pin. "When I finished second to Fred Funk [in 2005], it was very windy on the last day and I hit it to the bottom tier and had to two-putt. That's a horrible two-putt to have to make from the front fringe to that back pin. It goes over the hill there and gets going fast. I got it to seven or eight feet and made it."
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17th by the Numbers 1 Number of players who have birdied 17 on all four days (Paul Azinger, 1987) 4 Depth in feet of the water surrounding the green 6 Aces in Players history (Miguel Angel Jimenez, Paul Azinger, Joey Sindelar, Fred Couples, Brian Claar and Brad Fabel) 3 Score made by Fred Couples in 1999, when he hit his first shot into the water, took a drop on the tee, and then holed his third shot with a 9-iron 11 Score by Robert Gamez in the third round in 1990 (it included four water balls), the highest number until ... 12 Bob Tway's score in the third round in 2005, made in 25-30 mph winds and featuring four water balls and a three-putt 121 Yards from the middle of the championship tee to the front of the green 146 Yards from the middle of the championship tee to the back of the green
8 of 10 David Walberg
Rod Pampling "Last year was the first time I hit it in the water. I had one near miss that went down the path and I got it up and down for par. I got a break and took advantage of it. "If it's really windy you're just going to aim at the fat of the green, but most times you can have a crack at the pin there. You've got to forget about the water. If you're playing well it's a good opportunity to make birdie. Be target-oriented. If you focus on a certain point, the shot should take care of itself."
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Stuart Appleby "I've done average. I don't know anyone who has a brilliant history there. I've hit it in the water more times than near the hole. I think everybody has. It's just about trying to hit into a portion of the green where the flag is. You just try to make a good, clean pass at it. I've hit as much as a 7-iron when it plays into the wind. The tee shot is twice as hard as the shot from the drop area, but getting it close from the drop-zone is not easy. My low is birdie. My high is probably a double. "I'd be surprised if there's a player who hasn't made a double there. It's not a great hole of golf, nothing special about its design, it's just unique from a penalty point of view. It's a hole of consequences. If you don't hit the right shot, you pay for it. You're happy to make a 4. Where else would you be happy to make a 4 after missing the green from 134 yards? "The more times you play it the more you focus and knuckle down on what you have to do to hit the ball in that position."
10 of 10 Fred Vuich
MINDING THE SCORE "Players should have a plan they want to execute at 17 and work that out in practice rounds," says sports psychologist Dr. Richard Coop. "There's a bit of wind that's hard to detect on that hole. The important thing is not bailing out in the middle of a swing. The players need to commit to club selection based on a plan developed during practice rounds. That's most important. "If they de-commit in the middle of a swing, that's bad news. Also, they should recall past successes on the hole. The last thing is to get an intermediate target and aim at that for that last look, rather than at the pin, where they might see all that water. They're looking at the wrong place if they're appreciating the beauty of the hole. "Of course, the other thing is that they now have that video online of people playing the hole all day long. I tell my players not to watch that because you see too many splashes. I even tell them not to watch their playing partners hit for that reason. It creates too powerful a visual."