Course Gallery: Players break down TPC Sawgrass hole-by-hole
May 04, 2014
By Sean Martin, D.J. Piehowski & Keyur Khamar, PGATOUR.COM
- From left, the 16th green, 17th island green, and 18th tee at TPC Sawgrass (Jamie Squire/MetLife Blimp/Getty Images)
TPC Sawgrass has hosted THE PLAYERS Championship since 1982. The annual return to THE PLAYERS Stadium Course allows players to grow increasingly familiar with Pete Dye’s famed creation. Most fans only know the course from television, though. We asked PGA TOUR players to explain their strategy for each hole in order to help fans gain a deeper knowledge of the course. Read below for their insights and a statistical analysis of each hole (Note: Stroke average, greens in regulation and driving accuracy statistics from 2013; hole ranking in parentheses, with 1 being the most difficult and 18 the easiest).
No. 1: 423 yards, par-4
Stroke average: 3.998 (13)
Greens in regulation percentage: 67.0 percent (11)
Driving accuracy percentage: 50.2 percent (1)
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Jonas Blixt says: “The first hole, it’s a tighter driving hole than many people think. It only plays 420, but it feels like it plays longer. You want to hit it about 10 yards left of the right bunker. You know you can carry the water on the right so that isn’t in play.
“The green is quite interesting, to say the least. If you miss it left, you’re done; you know you’re making bogey. You want to give yourself a good birdie chance with a short-iron in. You want to get on the right level to have a good chance at birdie. I usually have 8- or 9-iron into the green. The front part of the green runs off, so you want to get over that. The middle pins, you can really go after. The long pins, you want to play short of and keep long and left out of play.”
ShotLink stats: Players have only gotten up-and-down from No. 1’s greenside bunker 38.3 percent of the time. The first hole has the second-lowest sand-save percentage on the course.
No. 2: 532 yards, par-5
Stroke average: 4.630 (17)
GIR percentage: 81.6 (16)
Driving accuracy percentage: 53.4 percent (2)
(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
David Lingmerth, 2013 runner-up, says: “The tee shot demands a draw for a right-hander. It’s quite narrow. It’s a tough tee shot. I remember in the tournament hitting hybrids and even 4-irons into that green. The green is kind of narrow and generally you don’t want to miss it right because it’s a tough up-and-down and you don’t want to go long because there’s a drop-off back there. You can get away with missing it left of the green. It’s a reachable par-5, but the drive is pretty important. The prevailing wind is off the left, too, so you need to hold the tee shot up against the wind, so you have to hit a pretty good draw.
“The lay-up, you have to pick the right target because there’s tree left and the water and bunkers on the right. It gets pretty narrow up there. You try to lay up between 80-100 yards.”
ShotLink stats: Players going for the green in two shots have averaged 4.51 strokes, while players who lay up average 5.09.
No. 3: 177 yards, par-3
Stroke average: 3.077 (T7)
GIR percentage: 55.9 percent (5)
Average distance to hole: 34 feet, 0 inches
Brendon de Jonge says: “It’s always been a tricky hole to pick the wind. It feels like it swirls in that corner there. It’s one of those holes I’ve always been happy trying to hit it in the middle of the green there. It can be anywhere to an 8-iron and 6-iron. When they put that pin on the top tier, long is no good because you have absolutely no chance. It feels like any time you are in the front-third of that green you have a good chance to make 3.
“A lot depends on where the hole is. When you get those front pins -- the front-right, the slope can feed it to the right -- you can get close to that. But it seems like any time you get a back flag, you’re just trying to make a 3.”
ShotLink stats: No. 3 has the highest sand-save percentage (58.1 percent) and scrambling percentage (65 percent) of any hole on the course.
No. 4: 384 yards, par-4
Stroke average: 4.036 (11)
GIR percentage: 63.6 percent (9)
Driving accuracy percentage: 58.4 percent (5)
(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
Ben Crane says: “I like to push it up on this hole. Some guys like to lay back with like a hybrid. I like to hit 3-wood or even a cut driver. The fairway narrows up a little, but it’s a scoring opportunity if you get it up there with a sand wedge in your hand. The front pins, if you’re in the rough, you have to take your medicine and hit your wedge that is going to bounce to the back of the green. If you hit the fairway, it’s a birdie hole, and you can use the contour on the left-hand side to feed the ball down into that left pin.
“There are trees overhanging on the right-hand side, so you really don’t want to be playing a draw off that tee. If you get beyond the front-right pin, it’s a very fast putt that’s hard to make. The back-right pin, if you’re long, you’re in trouble because you’re pitching back down the slope. The very middle pin is a cool pin, but you want to avoid the collection area, so generally play a little short and right of that hole.”
ShotLink stats: No. 4 is the fourth-hardest green to putt, according to strokes gained-putting (-0.37).
No. 5: 471 yards, par-4
Stroke average: 4.191 (4)
GIR percentage: 56.8 percent (6)
Driving accuracy percentage: 56.1 percent (3)
(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
Fred Funk, 2005 champion, says: “Every hole depends on the wind, but the predominant wind seems to come out of the left or in out of the left, and that’s just a tough tee shot because you don’t want to go into that right bunker and you want to bail out into the left rough. It’s a tough fairway; visually, it’s not an easy shot.
“The second shot, it’s pretty open, but the big miss is left. Missing in the left rough or in that left rough just short of the bunker, you have a really tough chip, especially if the pin is anywhere center or left. It’s impossible. You really have to avoid the left side even more than the right side. The right side is more visually intimidating with all the moguls and everything, but if you bail out left, you’re in trouble. The right side, past the moguls, are really easy chip shots. The green falls to the front-right. The left side of the green is up pretty high and has a little bit of a false front on the left-front.”
ShotLink stats: Players average 36 feet from the hole with approach shots from the fairway on this hole, while averaging 57 feet from the hole with approaches from the rough.
No. 6: 393 yards, par-4
Stroke average: 4.059 (10)
GIR percentage: 63.9 percent (10)
Driving accuracy percentage: 63.0 percent (8)
(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
David Duval, 1999 champion, says: It’s really gotten to where you have to keep it down now to stay under that tree that hangs just off the tee box. It gets real tight once you get out there at 260, 270 yards. I always tried to hit an iron or a 3-wood and chase out there as far as you can and then you end up with a wedge or a 9-iron in. You just have to make sure you be careful and think about where the pin is to make sure you get on the right levels of that green. You have that big bowl down on the front left of the green, so if you miss, with the pace of those greens, you’re going to have trouble.
ShotLink stats: Players hit the green 71.7 percent of the time from the fairway, but just 32.6 percent of the time from the rough.
No. 7: 442 yards, par-4
Stroke average: 4.139 (5)
GIR percentage: 54.3 percent (4)
Driving accuracy percentage: 62.0 percent (7)
Ben Curtis says: “Off the tee, length probably isn’t the most important thing because it plays downwind. The farther left you hit it, the better angle you have, but then you’re bringing the left bunker and water into play. I take driver and try to draw it down the left-center. If it leaks into those bunkers, a couple of them aren’t too bad. It’s fairly wide.
“You’re generally left with a 7-, 8- or 9-iron. It benefits if you hit a nice fade in there and just start it left side of the green and fade it back towards the middle. If you get it pin-high and you’re in the middle of the green, you’re not going to have more than 10-12 feet. They put the pin on the right side on three days: front, middle, back. The green flows right-to-left so the fade will hold it up against the hill. The bunker on the right is tough because it’s down below the green and the green is sloping away from you. It’s one of those holes where if you hit a good drive, you’re thinking ‘3’.”
ShotLink stats: Players hit the green just 24 percent of the time from the rough, making No. 7 the third-hardest green to hit from the rough.
No. 8: 237 yards, par-3
Stroke average: 3.195 (3)
GIR percentage: 48.0 percent (3)
Average distance to hole: 44 feet, 9 inches
(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
Luke Guthrie says: “It’s a long par-3 with a narrow tee box, narrow opening, narrow green. Everything is kind of skinny there. With a back pin and back tees, it can play up to 250 yards. In the tournament, when the greens are rock hard, all you want is front edge and just go take a putt. That’s not a hole you’re trying to make birdie, really. It’s a pretty small green. The right side is very playable because the green pitches from left-to-right. The front-right bunker, you can get it up-and-down to almost any pin. The left bunker, unless the pin is on the front-right corner, is dead. You have to be right, either on the green or right of the green. You can get big-breaking putts on the green, but there aren’t any up-and-over putts; it’s just a general back-left to front-right slope on the green.”
ShotLink stats: The eighth hole has the second-longest proximity to hole on approach shots (46 feet) since 2003, but is the easiest hole at TPC Sawgrass to putt from 5 to 10 feet (59.9 percent of putts made).
No. 9: 583 yards, par-5
Stroke average: 4.857 (15)
GIR percentage: 73.6 percent (13)
Driving accuracy percentage: 76.1 percent (14)
(Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
Michael Thompson says: “You can do one of two things on the tee shot. If you want to be aggressive, you can hit driver down the left side and get it down there a bit farther. Most guys I think play it with a 3-wood off the tee, get it down there to a good number where they can have a good lay-up. The second shot is where it’s all risk-reward. If you get the tee shot down there far enough, you have a chance to go for it in two, but it’s a really hard green to hit and you’re usually hitting 3-wood in. It’s very narrow in front of the green.
“Most guys are going to lay up, probably hit about a 5-iron to the lay-up spot. The key is, you have to get past the trees on the left. You want to leave yourself 70-80 yards from the front of the green. If you lay up too far back, you’re going to be blocked by some trees. Once you do that, then it’s a pretty simple wedge shot into that green. Most of those pins are pretty accessible. The back-right one is kind of fun because you can play around with the slope a little bit, hit it a little left of the hole and it will spin down to the hole. If you play it smart, you’ll give yourself four good birdie opportunities.”
ShotLink stats: Players going for the green in two average 4.63 strokes, while those who lay up average 4.96. There were just 24 eagles on the hole from 1983 to 2008. There were 17 eagles between 2009 and 2012.
No. 10: 424 yards, par-4
Stroke average: 4.020 (12)
GIR percentage: 62.3 percent (8)
Driving accuracy percentage: 64.5 percent (10)
Chris Kirk says: “It’s one of my favorite holes out there. It’s a cool tee shot, in that it’s not an overly difficult tee shot but it is narrow. You’re happy just to hit that fairway. You’re not going to get a bad angle if you’re in the fairwayYou stand on the tee knowing you have to hit the fairway to have much of a chance to have a putt for birdie. If you hit it in the left bunker, you’re kind of blocked by the trees a little bit and the right rough is no bargain either.
“It’s a pretty cool green. Most of us hit 3-wood off the tee, and if you hit a good one you’re going to have a great chance at birdie, and if you miss the fairway you’re going to struggle to make par. I usually have a wedge or 9-iron to a front pin, and sometimes a 7- or 8-iron to the back pins. The middle-right hole is a cool one because that front-right bunker is raised, so it’s a level shot but you can only see half the flag. The front pins, if you’re in the fairway, you can attack them and try to make birdie. It’s tough to get anywhere on that front quadrant if you’re not in the fairway.”
ShotLink stats: The 10th green is the most difficult at TPC Sawgrass, according to strokes gained-putting (-0.55).
No. 11: 558 yards, par-5
Stroke average: 4.705 (16)
GIR percentage: 79.1 percent (15)
Driving accuracy percentage: 70.5 percent (12)
(Scott Halleran/MetLife Blimp/Getty Images)
Billy Horschel says: “No. 11 is a very reachable par-5 in two. It’s a great hole because you can make anywhere from a 3 to a 7. Ideally, on the tee shot, you’re obviously trying to put it in the fairway like any hole, but if you get it down the left side, you have a little bit of an angle, but if you go too far, there’s a big oak tree over there. Anywhere down the middle of the fairway or right side gives you a chance to go for it; it plays a little longer from the right side. When you try to go for it, you have to hit a big high fade in there. It’s a little nerve-wracking because you have some water there on the right, and if you double-cross it you have a tough chip because the green isn’t very wide coming from the left side. Any up-and-down-from pin-high left is tough. If you miss it in the front bunker, it’s an easy up-and-down to any pin.
“If you hit a good drive and the course is playing fast and firm, you’re not having anything more than a long-iron into the green for your second shot. If you’re laying up, any pin on the right side, you want to go to the left fairway to have a better angle. The pin that is on the front left, I try and lay up on the right side to give myself a little more room.”
ShotLink stats: Since 2003, 63.6 percent of players have attempted to go for the green in two, but just 12.4 of those players have reached the green successfully with their second shot.
No. 12: 358 yards, par-4
Stroke average: 3.87 (14)
GIR percentage: 76.6 percent (14)
Driving accuracy percentage: 73.2 percent (13)
Brendon de Jonge says: “I think 12 is one of the underrated holes on the golf course. It’s essential to hit it in the fairway off the tee there. It’s such a difficult second shot. You want to try and get in the right side of that fairway so you can see the green. It’s blind from the left side (because of mounds). It’s a scoring opportunity if you hit a good tee shot. If not, you’re playing a little bit defensive because it’s tough to hold that green out of the rough. I normally hit 2-iron or 3-iron off the tee, just something you can get in the fairway and leave yourself a wedge (the fairway is 21 yards wide at 275 yards from the tee, making it the narrowest fairway on the course).
“The front part of the green kind of runs away from you, so it’s difficult to get it close to those front flags. You have a better chance at those back flags, because you can chase it back there. Missing short of the green is always pretty tough because the green does run away from you.”
ShotLink stats: Players hit the green in regulation with 81.6 percent of approach shots from the fairway on this short par-4, but that drops to 45.2 percent from the rough. Players hit the green 51.3 percent of the time from the right rough, compared to 42.9 percent from the left rough.
No. 13: 181 yard, par-3
2013 stroke average: 3.077 (T7)
GIR percentage: 70.7 percent (12)
Average distance from hole: 32 feet, 6 inches
(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
Harris English says: “It doesn’t seem like that hard of a par-3 on paper, but that green is crazy. The pin positions are always really tough. Half the green slopes toward those left pins, but if you miss it right you’re going to have a tough putt and if you miss it left you’re in the water. You almost treat it as two separate greens. Those left pins, I’m trying to play like 15 or 20 feet right of the pin and play a little draw in; your miss is probably going to be right and if you miss on that top (right) shelf, it’s a really tough two-putt because it’s so fast, downgrain toward the water. It’s a tough two-putt.
“Especially with some swirling wind, it’s tough to get the right yardage and you’re usually left with a putt outside of 20 feet. I have anywhere from a 5- or 6-iron to an 8-iron into the green. They sometimes move the tees up for the front pin or the left pin. It’s a good hole. I’m happy with par there every time.”
ShotLink stats: Since 1992, there have been 727 three-putts or worse on the 13th green, the most on any hole of a non-major on the PGA TOUR. There have been 310 putts longer than 10 feet made on the green since 2003, the fewest of any hole at TPC Sawgrass.
No. 14: 481 yards, par-4
Stroke average: 4.282 (2)
GIR percentage: 43.2 percent (1)
Driving accuracy percentage: 66.1 percent (11)
Luke Guthrie says: “It’s basically straightaway, the fairway bends right a little bit. It’s pretty generous; you just have to wail on it and hit it. There’s water left off the tee that goes along the bunker. You can’t miss right because there are mounds, moguls, so if you miss over there, you have a weird lie and are just hacking out. You’re not going to be able to hit a 3-iron out of those.
“The green is well-bunkered. There’s a long, flat bunker left and some pot bunkers right. The green kind of falls to the left for the most part. You never want to short-side yourself right of the green, because the green will be running away from you. Left bunker shots to any pin are pretty fine. It’s a big green. It’s normally a driver, 4-iron. You need to hit two pretty good shots. “
ShotLink stats: Only 20.9 percent of players hit the green in regulation from the rough, making it the hardest green to hit from the rough. Players average 40 feet from the hole with approach shots from the fairway, compared to 70 feet from the rough; both are the highest averages of any hole on the course.
No. 15: 449 yards, par-4
Stroke average: 4.139 (5)
GIR percentage: 58.4 percent (7)
Driving accuracy percentage: 60.7 percent (6)
Morgan Hoffmann says: “It’s a tough driving hole for me. You have to get 3-wood or driver, whatever you’re feeling good with that day, in the fairway. It’s a long second shot in there, and the green is usually pretty firm there because it’s in the sunlight. Just being below the hole there is crucial. The tee shot is tight through the trees, and then opens up. I usually have a 6- to 8-iron into the green. You definitely don’t want to go over. Anything short is OK because there’s a couple bunkers that are easy to get up-and-down from.”
ShotLink stats: The 15th green is the second-easiest at TPC Sawgrass for players putting from 5 to 10 feet (57.9 percent made).
No. 16: 523 yards, par-5
Stroke average: 4.593 (18)
GIR percentage: 82.5 percent (17)
Driving accuracy percentage: 64.3 percent (9)
(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
Billy Horschel says: “On the tee it looks like a hole where you want to hug the left side, but it reality, you don’t need to be on that side to get there in two. It’s such a short par 5 that being anywhere in the fairway will give you a chance to go for it. The left side will just give you a better angle. There’s a lone palm tree that’s behind the green, just left of the center, that I always try to aim my second shot at. I might try to hit a little bit of a cut depending on the day and the wind, but I always take it right on that line.
“If it lands on the green, it lands on the green, but if you miss it’s just left and you have a relatively easy up and down to any of the hole locations. It’s a hole where eagle and birdie can be easy, but you could easily make bogey or double or worse, too.”
ShotLink stats: Since 2003, 72 percent of the field has gone for the 16th green in two shots and 26.2 percent of those players have hit the green with their second shot. Players who have gone for the green since 2003 are 1,891 under par, while those who laid up are 56 under.
No. 17: 137 yards, par-3
Stroke average: 3.064 (9)
GIR percentage: 83.4 percent (18)
Proximity to hole: 22 feet, 8 inches
(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
Justin Rose says: “To me, 17 is one of the easiest holes we play all year… on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday when you’ve got a scorecard in your hands, it ramps up. You feel your heart rate elevate on the tee box, so be prepared for that. The front pin placement, that’s where you’re looking to make birdie. That’s the easiest one to hit a good tee shot and use that slope to get it close. But anything in the back, especially on the right hand side tucked over the bunker, I’m picking a line that’s just on top of the crown and trying to land the ball 13 or 14 yards on the green and playing for something safe in the middle.
“That hole gets really tricky when you start to get a wind that’s in off the right or in off the left. For example, if the wind is off the right and you’re trying to hit a little hold shot and you pull it a little bit, it’s gone long and left. That’s when that hole plays the toughest, when the wind is quartering into you from either direction.”
ShotLink stats: Since 2003, there have been 525 balls in the water at No. 17, the most of any hole at TPC Sawgrass.
No. 18: 462 yards, par-4
Stroke average: 4.393 (1)
GIR percentage: 43.6 percent (2)
Driving accuracy percentage: 57.0 percent (4)
(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
Rickie Fowler says: “Eighteen is just a brutally hard finishing hole. Each shot is just as hard as the other. The drive is obviously important; the fairway starts out wide and then narrows up as the hole bends to the left. I like to hit 3-wood because it gives me more room up the right side. Driver starts to run out of room, you really have to hug the water and cut it close.
“The second shot is usually downwind off the left and the green pitches from right to left. The Sunday pin placement is tucked way in the back left and there is water all the way up the left side. I think that really plays with your mind a little bit and it’s tough to get it all the way back there. It’s just a great finishing hole. You have to hit two really good golf shots to give yourself a look at birdie or at least make four a little easier.”
ShotLink stats: The 18th green isn’t just tough to hit. It’s also tough to save par on the hole when missing the green in regulation. Since 2003, players have saved par 44.4 percent of the time after missing the green in regulation, making it the hardest hole to get up-and-down on.
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