How to Play No. 18 at TPC Sawgrass

The island-green 17th at the TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium course will hog the screen time while you’re watching the Players Championship this month, but it’s not the hole that Tour players are really sweating. A good score on 17 is mostly about luck — you check the wind, pick the right club, aim for the center of the green and pray. The 447-yard 18th is actually the toughest hole during the tournament. You have to avoid the lake twice, on the tee shot and again on the approach. “From the tee, you don’t see a lot of fairway — what you see is water,” says 2005 Players Championship winner Fred Funk. “And the second shot isn’t easy because the green is so severe. It’s an especially great finishing hole.”

On the approach, Fred says: “Depending on the wind, I’ve had anywhere from fairway wood to 8-iron in. Last year in the final round, I hit 6-iron, and with all the wind, that’s as good a drive as I’ve ever hit. I aimed out over the scoreboards and let the wind bring it in. If you played away from the water last year you were going to end up in the right rough, where you’re dead. While you’re sizing up the approach, forget the pin. When you try to force a long shot into a tight area, that’s when you get in trouble. Just try to get your ball in a general area.”

From the tee, Fred says: “You really want to commit to this shot and let it go. If you try to guide it, you’re going to end up somewhere you don’t want to be. My play is to aim toward the tree that hangs over the fairway. I take that as my line and try to draw it off that.”

Greenside bunker: “Unfortunately, I wound up the left bunker, pinhigh. I was aiming at the left fringe with the wind whipping in from left to right. I was just trying not to bail out too far right and I slammed it left a little. It was a career upand-down. I’d never been in that bunker before, at least not in the tournament. So I’m one for one.”

Mounds to front and right of green: “I’ve been in there. It used to be the old St. Augustine grass and then they changed it. That was like hitting out of steel wool. You had no clue what lie you were going to get — uphill, downhill, sidehill. A lot of times, you were dead. Now it depends on what kind of lie you’ve got. You can get some awkward stances with the moguls. Then you’re just trying to not make double.”

The green: “This is one of the more difficult greens on Tour. It’s a weird shape. You’ve got a plateau to the right, then you’ve got a little plateau over that first level, and then it goes up again to where the Sunday pin is [back left]. It’s always tricky getting to those. The front-left pin is pretty easy, because everything feeds to it. But the other positions are brutal.”

“If you’re on the green, the worst place to be with that Sunday pin location is on the front left. If you don’t quite get it to the middle tier, it rolls back and you’ve got to go up one tier, and it’s usually sidehill, and then back up another tier.”

“For every pin except for bottom left you want to play the approach just right of center, over that middle tier.”

Winning numbers
At 48, Fred Funk became the Players Championship’s oldest winner by hitting plenty of fairways and greens. Here are the stats behind his victory:
Birdies 17
Pars 47
Bogeys 8
Greens in regulation 1st (58 of 72)
Fairways hit T1 (48 of 56)
Sand saves T41 (2 of 4)
Total putts T69 (122)
Driving distance 80th (253.4 yards)

Play it

You can play the Stadium Course by staying at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort in Ponte Vedra, Fla. 6,954 yards, par 72, 904-285-7777,

Tee times: 800-457-4653
Greens fees:
Getting there: TPC Sawgrass is 25 miles east of the Jacksonville airport and 133 miles north of Orlando.

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