News & ToursMay 9, 2008

Morrice: No. 17, You Little Devil

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- On Wednesday afternoon at the Players, a TV crew was testing its audio by throwing ice cubes in the pond that surrounds the 17th green to mimic the sound of a golf ball plopping in the water. That audio got a workout during Thursday's opening round, when 20 balls found the pond, leading to a bunch of double bogeys, a couple triples and one quadruple-bogey 7. At just 148 yards, a wedge for most players, No. 17 could be had in the morning calm but caught up fast thanks to a gusty afternoon tailwind. In the end, 105 of 141 players hit the green and 22 made birdie, but more good rounds died at 17 than anywhere else. Here's how five pros played it on Thursday:

MATT KUCHAR

Score on 17: 7

First-round score: 78

When Kuchar stepped onto the 17th tee, the wind was blowing harder than it had all day. His tee shot landed just past the pin but took a giant leap into the pond. Hitting from the drop area (85 yards from the hole), Kuchar again flew the ball too far. Rinse and repeat. A second try from the drop area, his fifth shot, cleared the bulkhead fronting the green by two steps, setting up a two-putt for quad and 41 on his opening nine (he started on No. 10).

TIM CLARK

Score on 17: 6

First-round score: 77

One of the few players to hit 9-iron on 17, Clark liked his shot in the air, only to see it bounce once, twice, three times and dribble off the back and into the water. He nearly dumped his next shot, from the drop area, into the hazard. Big relief, but it didn't last long. Three putts from the front of the green led to a triple-bogey 6.

ERNIE ELS

Score on 17: 6

First-round score: 72

Els' triple on 17 was particularly tough to swallow because he played the first 16 holes in two under. With the wind gusting at his back, he tried to lay off a wedge, after putting his sand wedge back in the bag, but chunked it in the water short. He played from the drop area, skidding his next shot through the green and nearly into the pond again, then took three to hole out. The good news: He regrouped and birdied the difficult finishing hole to post an even-par round.

ANDRES ROMERO

Score on 17: 4

First-round score: 77

In Wednesday's practice round, Romero was horsing around behind 17 green, hitting flop shots and chipping up the walkway that leads onto the island. Little did Romero know he'd actually have to hit one of those shots on Thursday. His tee shot carried the green and rolled down the walkway into the rough. It didn't help that the path is surfaced in fast-running artificial turf; his ball might have stopped in real grass. After hitting a spectacular pitch off a downslope that released 15 feet by the hole, Romero two-putted for bogey. Disaster averted.

PHIL MICKELSON

Score on 17: 2

First-round score: 70

Playing in the calm morning conditions, Mickelson went back to his bag three times before settling on a wedge for his tee shot. It proved worth the extra strategizing, as Mickelson stuck his ball to four feet and rolled in the birdie putt. He bogeyed 18 but still finished  two under, four off Sergio Garcia's first-round lead.

TOP 5 SHOTS OF THE DAY ON 17:

Tommy Armour III: 17 inches (birdie)

Dean Wilson: 2 feet, 5 inches (birdie)

Paul Casey: 2 feet, 10 inches (birdie)

Johnson Wagner: 3 feet, 5 inches (par)

Phil Mickelson: 4 feet (birdie)

--Peter Morrice

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