Eagle hunt on at 12th hole at TPC Sawgrass
May 10, 2018
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Justin Rose dunks his approach shot on No. 12 at THE PLAYERS
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – When the new drivable par-4 12th hole at TPC Sawgrass debuted last year, it was a fairly timid affair.
A complete redesign was supposed to bring added excitement as players could take the chance at an eagle, but there was also the risk a big mistake thanks to a strategically placed water hazard on the left side of the green.
The right side of the putting surface also houses some mounds and a pot bunker and then everything on the short grass slopes towards a shaved bank that sends balls toward the water.
It was this combination that was seen by the majority as too harsh and too much of a risk leading to a conservative approach from the field.
But now, thanks to some mild adjustments, a little flattening here and there, and a small strip of rough in front of the water hazard – the green light was up.
Under 10 percent of the field on Thursday in the 2017 THE PLAYERS Championship bothered trying to drive the green.
A year later it was a different story as 47 percent refused to lay up.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat was the first player of the day to step up on the tee that measured at 309 yards with its back left pin location.
The Thai star pulled his driver and duly knocked it to seven feet before burying the eagle putt.
It was one of seven eagles on the day.
Just 19 of the 67 players who went for it found the green, but they weren’t the only eagle hunters.
Justin Rose was able to hole out from 98 yards – part of a hot start on the way to his 4-under 68.
“I liked where the pin was today, it was back left, which is an inviting tee shot,” Rose said.
“You feel like you can miss the tee shot right if you go for the green, but there's a really tough slope that's about six, eight feet to the right of the pin that makes chipping to that pin incredibly difficult and very inviting for a wedge shot.
“I knew that I could put the wedge in there just a little bit to the right of the pin and let it spin down. As it happened I hit my wedge straight at it and it took one bounce, checked and went in.”
But not all lay ups are created equal. Local resident Jonas Blixt has played the hole more than most. But his lay up found a bunker and his approach went long.
He was a frustrated man walking away with a bogey five.
Just 10 balls found the water. Six off the tee and four on approach.
Danny Willett almost found the water from the left side of the hazard such was the hook on his tee ball. He made a creative par chipping back over the pond.
Of the 144 players, 86 of them used driver or a fairway wood off the tee. Those players combined to be 40 under (-14 driver, -26 fairway wood).
That left 58 players teeing off with an iron. They combined to be 24-under.
Not all of those with iron were laying up.
Jason Day – the 2016 THE PLAYERS champion – hit his 2-iron to 16 feet.
“I thinned it a little bit and I am glad I did,” he would later say.
“I only had to carry it 253 yards and that’s easy enough. I will probably hit the 2-iron for the green every day.”
Day left his eagle putt on the edge of the hole but was one of 63 birdies.
Two other birdies came from Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
The veterans both chose to lay up, although Mickelson did so into a bunker.
The young buck of their group – 2015 PLAYERS champion Rickie Fowler – decided to show the old guys how it was done and actually hit his tee shot through the green.
Woods and Mickelson wedged close. Fowler was unable to get up and down and settled for par, bringing a wry grin from the old guys.
The other men to have more fun than most included Bryson DeChambeau - who chipped in for eagle from behind the green.
Then there was Chez Reavie who coaxed in an eagle putt from 19 feet and Tyrone Van Aswegen was able to send his 10-footer into the cup after a lovely drive.
With two opening birdies Van Aswegen was 4 under through just three holes at the time. Unfortunately he fell back to shoot 74.
Jordan Spieth had it even tighter than the South African. He made his eagle from just from 9 feet, although he felt lucky to even have the chance.
The ball went further left than he would have hoped but managed to stop just in time before hitting the shaved bank that sends balls towards a watery grave.
Spieth’s eagle wiped out his bogey-bogey start but it was not his day as he struggled to a 75.
“It was very close to going in the water. I’d like a little more rough maybe or a flatter spot at the bottom so everything didn’t get wet,” the Texan said post round.
Martin Kaymer was an early benefactor of the little bit of extra rough. His ball did find the slope but managed to stop just inches from the hazard.
Not long after though, Ryan Palmer’s ball was not so lucky. Despite similar pace over the ridge his ball did go for a swim. He still made par.
The last eagle came in the second-to-last group of the day when Aphibarnrat’s closest to the pin mark was finally bested.
Luke List took the proverbial cash with a sublime shot to 6 feet, 11 inches.
By the end of the day the scoring average on the hole stood at 3.556, making it the easiest on course.
There were only 13 bogeys.
Friday should bring even more attempts as players face the prospect of needing to make their moves either towards the top of the boards or towards the cut line.
Just what was initially intended.