The PlayersMay 11, 2016

Attention players at the Players: The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass isn’t that hard

Let me preface some semi-serious statistical analysis by letting you know that I played TPC Sawgrass’ 17th hole once – and I walked off the island green with a par. So what’s the big deal, people? We’re talking about a 137-yard par 3. It’s a wedge! (Well, a 9-iron for me. With a slightly helping wind.)

Yet somehow, TPC’s 17th has become the poster child for daunting shots in golf. Sure, there have been numerous trainwrecks in the water that surrounds the railroad ties, and the Players has been lost on No. 17 on plenty of occasions. But what seems to be overlooked is that the tournament has also been put away on the short hole many times.

In 2015, Rickie Fowler destroyed the myth that No. 17 can’t be owned, even with a back-right hole location that appears like it’s coming straight out of the water. Even under the crucible of late final-round pressure.

Fowler birdied the short hole as part of his five-under stretch on the final four holes of regulation. He then birdied it again in a three-hole playoff, and on the first hole of sudden death to finally put away Kevin Kisner, who narrowly missed pulling off a third straight birdie on the hole as well.

US PGA TOUR

You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, but for every Rickie or Tiger, there’s a Len Mattiace or a Sean O’Hair.” Well, the numbers don’t back you up.

In 2015, No. 17 tied for 78th on the PGA Tour’s list of toughest par 3s with a stroke average of 3.095. That doesn’t sound so tough, right? Now consider that that was an unusually high ranking in recent years.

No. 17 checked in at No. 151 the year before, actually playing slightly under par at 2.986. On average, the hole has ranked as the 120th most difficult on tour in the past seven years. That’s No. 120 on a list that usually includes about 200 par 3s.

In fact, other than in 2015, No. 17 has played as the easiest of TPC Sawgrass’ four par 3s in those seven years. And during that span, it has played on average as the 10th toughest hole on the golf course. In other words, exactly half of TPC Sawgrass’ holes are more difficult in relation to par, according to the numbers.

Look, I’m not saying it’s easy. In fact, I might never play the hole again just to ensure my perfect record when it comes to keeping my tee shot dry. But I’m also not a PGA Tour pro. And while No. 17 needs to be approached with caution – even by the best golfers in the world – it should also be viewed as a scoring opportunity. Just ask the defending champ.

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