The famed island-green 17th hole is usually the site of thrills, chills and spills. But this week, it looks like it may be mostly spills.
Nobody epitomized just how tough the 17th hole was playing Thursday more than Ernie Els, a three-time major champion. The problem is, the greens at the Stadium Course baked in the sun all day, and they were firm at the start of the round. In fact, they were firm on Monday. By late Thursday afternoon, a bulldozer could probably have run across them and not left any treadmarks.
At 17, the trouble is magnified because of a downwind tee shot to a green that’s about as firm as a sheet of Russian titanium.
Els, who was two under par when he arrived at the tee, was afraid that he’d go long (over the back of the green and into the lake) if he hit pitching wedge. So he pulled out his 54-degree sand wedge and, welcome to our worlds, hit it fat and dumped it in the lake.
Then he walked to the drop zone, hit another sand wedge that doinked off the green and barely came to a stop in the sliver of rough behind the green, inches from going in again. From there, Ernie chunked a chip and missed his putt, racking up a triple bogey 6.
He bounced back with a birdie on 18 to shoot 72 but was asked afterward if he was ready to blow up the 17th hole. Yes, he said.
"Anybody will be wanting to blow up 17 after making 6," he said. "It was tough. I played so good all day. So it’s tough to take. I’m not the only one who’s done that."
In all, 19 balls found the water at the 17th on Thursday. The disaster of the day at the 17th belonged to Matt Kuchar, who knocked two balls into the water and made a 7.
(Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)