As Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and other top golfers prepare to take on TPC Sawgrass for this year’s Players Championship, the attention—as it always does—returns to Pete Dye’s island-green, par-3 17th hole. It may or may not be the most terrifying par 3 in golf, but it certainly gets the players’ attention. And it should this year, as the tournament returns to its March date, which might mean the wind will have even more of an effect on playing the par-3 17th.
The hole also has played a key role in recent history in determining the eventual winner. The previous six champions have played the hole a combined four-under par. On the two weekend rounds, those six champions have played it three-under par, with no bogeys. Not since Matt Kuchar in 2012 has a champion bogeyed the hole more than once or made a bogey on the weekend and gone on to win. With that in mind, we take a look at the top five players in Par-3 scoring average in the Players field and the pitching wedges they use—the club likely to be in their hand when they step on the tee at the 17th hole.
Par-3 scoring: 2.85
Wedge: Honma T//World TW Forged prototype
When Justin Rose made the decision to sign with Honma earlier this year, he cited the ability to work with Honma on his irons as part of his reasoning for joining the company. “The collaborative process of making these [Honma] irons was so much fun,” Rose said. “I was able to make them look and feel like my own, which I think is awesome.” Among them were the 48-degree Rose prototype wedges with a raw finish that is already beginning to rust. Rose uses a 48-degree version as his pitching wedge.
Par-3 scoring: 2.90
Wedge: Callaway Apex MB 18
The irons Aaron Wise uses are a split set, with Callaway’s Apex MB 18 irons serving as his short irons. That makes sense as many tour players still seek the control of a muscleback blade as they get closer to the green. The irons utilize a groove design that promises a “high level of control and consistent spin.” Sounds like something that might come in handy, say, Sunday afternoon at the 17th at TPC Sawgrass.
Par-3 scoring: 2.91
Wedge: Titleist 718 MB
Danny Lee is now playing Titleist’s 718 MB muscleback blade model for his pitching wedge. The traditional, one-piece forging features very few changes from the 716 MB, although a straighter line muscle further refines the weighting to more precisely locate the center of gravity to enhance the shotmaking skills of elite players. As in the past, the head is forged from a single billet of 1025 carbon steel.
Par-3 scoring: 2.92
Wedge: TaylorMade P7 TW prototype
Interestingly, it was Tommy Fleetwood and not Tiger Woods who first put a set of TaylorMade’s P7 TW prototype irons in play. Woods, however, quickly followed suit and put the irons—which closely resemble the company’s P730 model in shape—in the bag at the Farmers Insurance Open. Make no mistake, though, these clubs are decidedly made for Woods, with former Nike craftsman Mike Taylor having helped the company perfect the club for the 14-time major winner.
Par-3 scoring: 2.92
Wedge: PXG 0311T
When you play the PGA Tour, you want precision with your wedges, and that goes for their construction, too. That’s why PXG decided to go with a milled construction on its 0311T wedges, which lefty Scott Langley uses for his 48-degree pitching wedge. Each 0311T is developed from a piece of 8620 steel, an alloy chosen for its soft feel. It is then forged into an oversize wedge shape, and then the piece is finished by completely milling the exact specifications for face, grooves, topline and sole. About half the material of the original shape is milled away during a process that the company says takes four-and-a-half hours per wedge.