PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Nicholas Thompson watched his ball stop safely on a ridge at the par-3 No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass, then waited for it to roll.
He expected it to happen much sooner than it did, and when it finally took off, it became one of the wildest adventures at the famed island green on a windy Sunday.
Thompson took his time getting to the green, walking about as slowly as he could while keeping an eye on his ball. He figured one of those 40-mph gusts in the final round at The Players Championship would do the trick. But it seemingly took forever.
It wasn’t until Thompson reached down to mark his ball that it started to turn. It rolled about 25 feet closer to the hole, leaving him with a 5-footer for birdie.
“I was just baffled that it didn’t roll down (sooner),” he said. “Literally, it was within 2 inches of catching the slope. When I went up there, I went to put my marker down and got about 3 inches or 4 inches from the ground and the ball just started rolling.”
Thompson threw his hands up in the air, egging on the wildly cheering gallery, called over a rules official just to be sure he didn’t have to remark the ball and then made the putt.
Others weren’t as fortunate at the 128-yard hole.
Charlie Wi knocked two in the water and finished with a quadruple-bogey 7. Jim Furyk, Rocco Mediate and Mark Wilson made triple bogey.
With the wind whipping left to right, the shortest hole played tougher than just about any other on the Stadium Course. Only the par-4 18th was more difficult Sunday.
Kevin Stadler thought his shot would land in the middle of the green, but when the wind got done with it?
“I hit a perfect shot and it barely stayed on the green,” he said.
The hole yielded just eight birdies, and two of those came from the same pairing. Pat Perez and Brett Quigley had two of the best tee shots of the afternoon there, and may have provided the best reaction.
Perez, struggling most of the day en route to a 5-over 77, knocked his shot within 2 feet. He watched his ball inch closer and closer to an ace, then tossed his club across the tee box in mock disgust when it stopped just short.
“Just having some fun,” Perez said.
He wasn’t done, though.
Quigley followed with a similar shot that landed a few feet farther left, then rolled to about 8 feet. He tossed his club to Perez, who then tossed it, too.
“I liked him throwing his, saying, ‘That’s enough for me,”‘ Quigley said. “That’s exactly how I felt. You wake up every morning thinking about that tee shot. You know it’s going to be tough. When you come down the ninth green you’re thinking about what the wind is going to do on 17 and trying to get a read on it. It’s just the hardest shot we play.”
STADLER’S REPEAT: Talk about an encore.
Kevin Stadler, making his debut at The Players Championship, eagled the 384-yard par-4 fourth for the second consecutive day.
He holed out from 95 yards with a 60-degree wedge in the third round Saturday, then made another eagle from a nearby spot Sunday. He holed out from 98 yards with a sand wedge in the final round.
“That doesn’t happen often,” said Stadler, the son of former Masters champion Craig Stadler. “I hit a great shot yesterday. Today, I got lucky. I got a good little hop and I could tell by the way people were watching it up by the green that it was going to be close.
“I couldn’t believe it dropped in again. It was pretty wild.”
And pretty rare.
Hal Sutton is the only other player to accomplish the feat at The Players. Sutton eagled No. 4 twice in 2001.
Stadler can only imagine what it will feel like to step to the tee box at No. 4 in the future, but he knows those shots will stick with him forever.
“It has treated me nicely the last couple of days, that’s for sure,” said Stadler, who shot 71 and finished 3 over.
TEBOW VISITS: Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow visited TPC Sawgrass for the final round, watching the action on the famed par-3 17th with his brother, father and a few friends.
Tebow had hoped to catch former Florida golfer Chris DiMarco, but DiMarco was finished before Tebow arrived at the course.
Tebow, who became the first sophomore to win college football’s most prestigious award, didn’t get an early start because he got home late Saturday night from a missionary trip in eastern Europe.
The 6-foot-3, 232-pound Tebow lives nearby in Jacksonville and attended Nease High in Ponte Vedra Beach. So was he able to get through the hometown crowd without much problem?
“Not really,” said Tebow, who was escorted by two sheriff’s deputies.
DIVOTS: Chad Campbell had the round of the day, making six birdies and shooting a 4-under 68. … Jesper Parnevik took a quadruple bogey on the par-5 ninth and shot 85, four strokes better than the highest score recorded at The Players since it moved to Sawgrass in 1982. Michael Campbell shot 89 in the first round in 2003. … J.B. Holmes had a par-free front nine Sunday, making four birdies and five bogeys. … Camilo Villegas finished 12 over and can blame his score on the final two holes. He was 8 over for the week on Nos. 17 and 18, including double-triple finish Sunday.