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Players Championship: PGA Tour pro's premature hole-in-one celebration backfires

March 16, 2024

We've heard time and time again that you never want to tempt the golf gods. But time and time again, that's exactly what golfers do.

Usually it comes in the form of an early walk or fist pump on a putt, which makes the miss that much more painful. During the third round of the Players Championship on Saturday, however, Peter Malnati took premature celebrations to another level.

Playing the famed 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, Malnati hit a beautiful wedge that spun perfectly off the slope and toward Saturday's front-left hole location. It looked good enough from the tee box that Malnati raised one finger toward the sky as he started to walk away, thinking he had made the latest ace on the famed par 3. And at that point, the golf gods made sure his ball didn't go in. Have a look:

Nice try, Peter. That would have been pretty badass. Of course, it's also very possible the golf gods didn't like that yellow golf ball.

After, Malnati told reporters that he had Larry Bird calling his winning shot at the 1988 NBA All-Star Three-Point Contest on his mind during the sequence.

Q. Did you think it was going in on 17?

PETER MALNATI: I was Larry Bird'ing it. I had my finger in the air walking off the tee. Where it landed, I thought it had—obviously the hole is small and we were 120-something yards away, so it's like never, like, it's never supposed to go in, it's always kind of lucky if it does. But where that ball landed I thought it had a really good chance to go in.

Q. You must have been furious.

PETER MALNATI: When it didn't go in? I can't catch a break. I haven't been able to in a while either.

What Malnati didn't mention was that Larry Legend won that contest despite never taking off his warmups. And that's why he's Larry Legend.

In any event, Malnati settled for birdie on his way to a third-round 66. Or, going by jersey number, a double Larry Bird.