Golfers accustomed to seeing green either turn red or go white when facing the blue expanse of the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass.
Sure, it’s just 137 yards or so to the pin, but it seems like an ocean away, both to the eyes and the mind. Worst of all, golfers at this week’s Players Championship will have the entire round to think about tackling the most intimidating hole in the game.
“It’s like having a 3 o’clock appointment for a root canal,” Mark Calcavecchia once said, via The Washington Post. “You’re thinking about it all morning and you feel bad all day. You kind of know, sooner or later, you’ve got to get to it.”
With just water in front of its postage-stamp-sized Island Green, No. 17 has made and broken champions at The Players, amid rumbles the hole is more gimmick than greatness. Playing too much club cost Sean O’Hair the tournament title and more than $700,000 in 2007. Playing not enough club in 2013 led Sergio Garcia to a title-killing 7 on the hole and made Tiger Woods, his hated rival, the champion.
As Calcavecchia hinted, the hole plays a mind game on normally self-assured pros. First, they must decide which club to play on the north-facing hole. That’s no easy task, considering the Atlantic Ocean breeze and varying pin placement on such a small landing area. Then there’s the knowledge that many other pros have failed there: According to The Florida Times-Union, 17.6 percent of golfers have shot bogey or worse on the No. 17 in 33 Players Championships. That’s a staggering number for the best players in the world, just six of whom have aced the par-3.
Four times, I challenged the 17th. Each time, I questioned my club choice — wedge, 9 iron, maybe even a 7 iron? Each time, my palms sweat — I once considered wearing two gloves. Each time, one glove on, I gripped the club a little tighter than I usally do. Each time, I stood over my ball for at least 10 seconds, then swung and prayed.
Three times, my shot landed on the green, dry and in position for a birdie. Did I sink the putt? I honestly don’t remember. I was just relieved to make it — something more than 525 PGA Tour players since 2003 can say.
Thumbnail photo John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports Images
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