By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Jim Furyk can't remember the first time he played the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. Or whether he made birdie or par ... or worse on the iconic island par 3.
He does remember the reactions his friends have had, though -- like the one who ran around in circles when he birdied the hole the first time he played it. Furyk says he makes sure he builds it up all day to "make sure they’re nice and nervous when we get there."
"I think everyone who comes to play this golf course looks forward to 17," Furyk said. "It's actually nice it's late in the round. If it were No. 7, all the hoopla would be over. Here you play on 17 and you’ve got a good finishing hole and you’re off to the pub at 19. I think it’s great that it’s this late in the round and everyone anticipates playing this hole.
"For us in the tournament you have a long walk all the way down to the waterline to get to the tee. So you’re surrounded by people, most of them want you to hit it in the water. They’re looking to see some accidents here. It actually has a big build-up."
Furyk, who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, says the 17th hole can play anywhere from 135 to 150 yards, and he might hit a pitching wedge to a 8-iron. The wind dictates everything. Into the wind it's usually a 7- or 8-iron. He has even hit a gap wedge when the par 3 is playing downwind.
Here are Furyk's three tips to success at the 17th hole.
1. Forget about where the pin is. Aim for the center of the green and put it on the green. The average golfer just wants to hit the green. Don’t worry about the edges or trying to get to a pin. Look at a spot in the center of the green.
2. Get the yardage and have plenty of club in your hand. Amateurs under club all the time. I hear all the time, well I think it’s an 8 or 9 and I think I can get the 9 there. It should be more which one do you think you can hit closer. Usually, that’s the club you’re going to swing smoothly, not the one you’re going to make your driver swing on. Have enough club in your hand.
3. Try to relax a little bit and block out the sensation that the green is surrounded by water. I have a friend in town that likes to joke and he always tells me when you walk to the 17th be sure to take all the emotion out. It’s kind of our joke amongst each other. Pretend you are on a driving range and the pin is in the middle of the driving range and you forget about it on the periphery. All that eye candy around makes the shot so different.