By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Question: Who is the only player to birdie the famed par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass all four rounds of THE PLAYERS Championship?
The answer is below, but first here’s a look at how the diabolical hole has played in recent years.
Of the players in this year’s field, no one has found the water surrounding the island green more since 2002 than Aaron Baddeley and Heath Slocum, both of whom have rinsed their tee shots a total of seven times. Phil Mickelson is second with six balls in the water.
Here’s a round-by-round breakdown of water balls since 2003:
|Year||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Cumulative|
|2008||20||18||10||16 (in regulation)||64|
Now for the answer to the question about the only player to birdie the 17th all four rounds: Paul Azinger, who accomplished the feat in 1987. Brian Gay, meanwhile, was the last to birdie it the first three rounds, which he did last year before making par in the final round.
How close did Robert Allenby’s birdie putt come to going in the hole on the par-3 17th Sunday at THE PLAYERS Championship?
“It went up to the hole, stayed on top then rolled back about an inch,” said Allenby, who came up one stroke short of forcing a playoff with Tim Clark at TPC Sawgrass. “That was probably the most disbelief that I've ever witnessed, especially in those circumstances, knowing that it's got to go in to tie Tim. For it to go up to the hole and take a little look over the top and then come back, that was a bit rude.”
Allenby had a chance to extend the tournament with a birdie on the next hole, too, but what he’ll be remembered for here this week is that putt. Another half-roll, maybe even a quarter-roll, and it drops.
“I thought that putt was in,” Allenby said. “It was a very bumpy looking line and track all the way to the hole, a lot of spike marks and stuff. But I really did think it was going to get to the hole.”
If not for one spike mark in particular, it might have. There was a spiked up piece of grass just at the front edge and the hole was slightly raised up.
“Obviously they put nothing on [the greens]. That's why they were just brown, no greenness to them, and they were super, super slick,” Allenby said. “I can't tell you how some putts are so nerve wracking because they were just so slick. You could tap it, and that ball could just get away from you very, very easily. So you really had to be in control of what you were doing and your emotions, as well.
“That was a putt that if I hit it a little bit too firm, I could lip it out on the high side and go six feet past. My main goal was I picked my line to just get to the hole, and I hit it exactly the way I wanted to do it. I know I hit a good putt.”
Just not good enough, though it’s hard to fault Allenby whose 2-under 70 was better than average on a day when the field average was more than two strokes over par.
“Obviously the golfing Gods were with Tim today, and I can accept that,” Allenby said. “I did everything that I could possibly do to try and win the tournament.” -- Brian Wacker
The 18th hole is again playing as the toughest hole on the golf course today, though it’s already playing about one-third of a stroke more difficult than it did all of yesterday with a stroke average of 4.667. There’s been all of one birdie – from Jeff Overton – there and six bogeys and five double bogeys.
The par-3 17th is also playing more difficult here in the final round -- it’s the sixth-hardest hole on the course with a stroke average of 3.241. Only three birdies have been made there all day -- Steve Flesch, J.B. Holmes and Jim Furyk -- compared to two bogeys and four double bogeys. -- Brian Wacker
The famed par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass just yielded its first birdie of the day, as Troy Merritt just rolled in a putt of 9 feet, 4 inches. Merritt and playing partner Phil Mickelson, who parred the hole, are in the eighth group of the day.
So far, none of the first 16 players going through the 17th have found the water around the island green. The pin for Saturday's third round is in the front left (see illustration).
Through the first two rounds, just 15 balls have landed in the water, with two players -- Greg Owen in the first round and Aaron Baddeley in the second -- finding the water twice at 17th in their rounds.
For complete coverage of the 17th, click here.
Will the island-green 17th play any harder in Friday's second round than it did in the first round?
TPC Sawgrass' famed par-3 hole was the easiest green on the course to hit Thursday, with 91 percent of the field hitting the green in regulation and just seven balls finding the water.
The 91 percent is the highest greens in regulation percentage at the 17th in a round since 1992 when the PGA TOUR began tracking the data.
Friday's second-round pin placement is back center (see photo below). Thus far, Harrison Frazar is the only player in the early going Friday to find the water with his tee shot.
For complete coverage of the 17th hole, including stats, notable results and more, click here.
PIN PLACEMENTS ON THE 17th
Harrison Frazar has the dubious honor of being the first player to go splash at No. 17 here in the second round. With the pin in the back center of the green, Frazar badly pulled his tee shot, missing the green well to the left. Frazar double bogeyed the hole, but he is 1 under on his round thanks to three birdies through his first 10 holes.
The best shot on the treacherous par-3 so far has been by Angel Cabrera, who hit it to 13 feet, 9 inches. -- Brian Wacker
We’re only a few hours into the opening round of THE PLAYERS Championship and we already have our first ball in the water on the par-3 17th. David Toms splashed down right of the green -- the flag is on the front middle. Toms double bogeyed the hole, but he is even par through 12 holes.
The best shot on No. 17 so far? That came from Nick O’Hern, who hit it to 3 feet, 1 inch to set up his lone birdie of the day so far. He is 1 under through 13 holes. -- Brian Wacker