Players Championship 2020: The good, the bad and the 'Better than most' from the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass
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Gimmicky. Overhyped. Unfair. Mind f. Spooky. Intimidating. Stupid. These are just a handful of words used to describe the par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. There are plenty of good ones used for it too. One thing is for certain—the mere mention of the island green always elicits some reaction from any tour pro who has played it during a round at the Players Championship.
Another certainty at the 17th? High drama, no matter if it’s March or May, windy, calm and sunny or cold and wet. It may only be a wedge to a massive green, but a slight breeze and some Sunday pressure can make it feel like a 3-iron into a gale-force wind. It’s reduced some of the best players in the world to a guy who is just re-enacting the final scene from “Tin Cup.”
With the Players on tap for next week, we went back and rounded up all the good, bad and ugly moments the 17th has produced over the years, including one you may have seen (or more likely heard) a few times before. You’ll NEVER guess what it is. Hint: It rhymes with “Wetter can post.” Scroll on to find out …
Tiger Woods mimics Kevin Na in 2019
A decade earlier, Tiger Woods being eight or nine shots back would not be a situation where you would find him smiling no matter the circumstances. If you needed any proof that times have changed, it was this exchange with Kevin (The Walk-in God) Na at the island green during last year’s third round. It also helped that Woods made birdie after making a 7 on the par 3 a day earlier.
Rickie Fowler defeats Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia in playoff in 2015
This finish may have been the Players at its absolute peak. How about the Sergio Garcia BOMB that he shoved in a few rowdy fans’ faces that we all forget about? Rickie Fowler gets a lot of (sometimes deserved) grief for shrinking in the big moment, but that was the opposite of what he did on Sunday in 2015. Through 12 holes, Fowler was one over on his round, then he proceeded to play the final six in six under, highlighted by a birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie stretch to finish. That earned him a spot in a three-way playoff, where he first fended off Garcia in the three-hole aggregate. He still, however, had to go one more hole with Kevin Kisner. The stage was set at 17, and Fowler threw another dart to finish off what remains the biggest victory of his career.
Matt Kuchar’s backhand shot in 2015
If you want to pull your hair out, read the YouTube comments from folks who are unimpressed by this shot. I hate the internet.
Fred Couples hole-in-three in 1999
At no point in that video do you know if Fred Couples is happy, pissed, upset with the shot, pleased with the shot, etc. You can’t possibly be any cooler than Boom Boom. Speaking of cool, watch the video again but this time just focus on Joe LaCava’s sunglasses.
All the aces
As impressive as these all are, Couples’ hole-in-three is still the king, mainly for how he strutted off like it was absolutely nothing. Quite the difference from Will Wilcox, who made sure to enjoy the absolute hell out of the moment, as he should have. If any of these aces competes with Freddy’s HI3, it’s Ryan Moore’s. Flying it directly in the hole is tough to top.
Jhonattan Vegas’ 70-footer in 2019
Just a few groups earlier, England’s Eddie Pepperell drained a double-breaking 48-footer that pulled him within a shot of the lead and caused the boisterous American crowd to began chanting “Eddie! Eddie!” Then Jhonny Vegas rolled in and stole all his thunder with what the longest putt in Players’ history at the 17th.
Martin Kaymer’s final-round 28-foot par putt in 2014
Holding on to a one-shot lead, Kaymer’s tee shot at the 17th was nearly disastrous, hitting the front of the green and almost spinning back into the water. The rough held it up, and from there he hit a poor chip that didn’t take the slope, leaving him with a 28-footer to stay in front.
We’ve seen that putt many times before, but the view from behind reminds you just how much it dives to the right. Poor Jim Furyk. He’s now missed out on Players playoffs by a stroke twice in the last six years.
Craig Perks’ wild finish to win in 2002
The highlight-reel 28-footer at 17 is the reason this clip made the list, but it’s the two chip-ins, one for eagle and the other for par, that Perks’ wild finish is remembered for.
Russell Knox hits three in the water, including a shank, in 2016
Knox wasn’t quite in serious contention late in the third round in 2016, but a birdie at 17 would have gotten him that much closer. Instead, he imploded, rinsing his first, re-teeing and hitting a … a … please don’t say it … don’t …
A SHANK! Nothing could be worse than a shank, except putting the next ball in the water as well. Finally, Knox relented and went to the drop area, which he should have done after the first ball. To his credit, he was an excellent sport about it, tweeting “shank you very much” after the round. No, Russell, shank you for the entertainment.
Sergia Garcia puts two in the water while tied for the lead in 2013
There may be no greater love-hate relationship in golf than Sergio’s connection with the 17th at Sawgrass:
Fan jumps in water before Jeff Sluman’s potential winning putt in 1987
Players Championship spectators, if you’re reading this, don’t be afraid to make some history and get wet next week. I need another righteous Golf Twitter meltdown like I need air to breathe. By the way, according to Sluman, the fan did this over a $250 bet. Adjusting for inflation, you could do the same for at least a G next week. Just saying.
Paul Goydos rinses one in playoff against Sergio Garcia in 2008
Like I said, Sergio has had some of his greatest memories at this hole and some of his worst. This shot and his ace are clearly the top two, even if the shot was made a little bit less nervy thanks to Goydos finding the drink. All-time display of SPORTSMANSHIP in this playoff. Also the all-time worst mock turtleneck ever. Sorry, Paul, it’s not for everyone. In fact, it’s really only for Tiger, and it only works when he wins the Masters. Very specific situation.
Sean O’Hair flies the green while in contention in 2007
Sean O’Hair is a four-time PGA Tour winner, but it feels like there’s an alternate universe where he has 10 wins. Considering he was two back on the 17th tee, this probably wouldn’t have been one of those wins anyway, but you’ve got to love the post-round interview. “I’m not playing for second.” Who knew O’Hair was such a hardo (in a good way).
Bob Tway records the highest score ever in the Players on No. 17 (12) in 2005
There’s no embeddable video, though you can go to this link and watch. If you do, you’ll see why Tway made a 12. The wind was howling that day, my friends. Tway went from sixth to 66th in a matter of a few swings. #Pray4Tway
The “Better than most”
“Better than most”
(Extreme Jay Leno voice) Have you guys seen this? Have you heard about this?