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Players 2022: Cameron Smith’s career-defining shot at the 17th hole was … a mistake?

March 14, 2022

Cameron Smith plays his tee shot on the treacherous island-green 17th. His ball landed four feet from the hole, setting up a critical birdie.

Logan Bowles

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — If fortune favors the bold, then Cameron Smith deserves his Players Championship win after the tee shot he hit on the scariest hole at TPC Sawgrass—the island-green 17th.

Ahead by two shots, and with the hole tucked in its traditional final-round location—three paces from the right—the expectation was for Smith to lock in on the center of the green with his 9-iron and gladly take a two-putt par. Instead, Smith’s shot landed four feet to the right of the flag.

The large gallery surrounding the hole erupted after seeing the shot, while the Golf Channel announcers spoke with incredulity. “That was way more aggressive than anticpated,” said Gary Koch. Take a look and a listen to the shot.

Smith made the putt to record his 10th birdie of the day en route to a six-under 66. As it turns out, it was much needed. In the moment, it put him three in the lead, but when Smith bogeyed the 18th hole and Anirban Lahiri birdied the 17th himself, Smith's 2 proved the last birdie needed for him to still win by one.

After the round, Smith was asked about his flag-hunting strategy on the 17th. The Aussie, however, quickly came clean with his answer.

“I'd be lying if I said I was aiming there. I was probably aiming 10 feet left of that,” Smith said.

Indeed, Smith explained that he wasn't trying to knock down the stick, but rather hit the shot over the front bunker center of the green and hold his ball against the wind coming from the right of the hole. But the wind didn’t do its part for three quarters of the shot.

“It held it up right there at the end,” Smith said. “That was just awesome.”

And a whole lot of lucky.