If you follow the PGA Tour you’ll know that The Players Championship, usually just referred to as “The Players”, has experienced major weather delays – the second round was only completed on Sunday!  The Players is often dubbed “the fifth Major” and it currently offers the highest prize fund of any tournament in golf ($20 million).  It attracts a high-class field and since 1982 it has always been played at the Tournament Players Club Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

In case there are any grammar nerds still reading this blog, I’d like to point out that I’ve used the official titles of this championship and neither includes an apostrophe, which I find hard to swallow.  I don’t want anyone to think that I’m being careless!

Anyway back to the golf!  TPC Sawgrass’s signature hole is the 17th, known simply as the “Island Green,” although it is technically a peninsula. It measures only 137 yards (125 m) from tee to green,  but it consists of only a tee and a 78-foot (24 m)-long green with a tiny bunker in front of it. Apart from a small path to the green, the green is completely surrounded by water. Choosing the right club is vital, as there is nowhere to land the ball but on the green, in the small bunker, or in the water. It is estimated that more than 100,000 balls are retrieved from the surrounding water every year, courtesy of professionals and tourists alike.  I’ve often wondered how many golf balls it would take for me to land (and stay) on the green. 

Whilst writing this blog Shane Lowry aced the 17th!

I did a bit of research (in other words, I used Google) and found some facts and figures about the 17th hole (these ignore the lone round that was played in 2020 – the event was abandoned after the first day due to the Covid-19 pandemic):

  • 5 — Events in which the hole has played under par on average. Last time the event was played in full (2021), it was 3.227.
  • 66 — Balls hit in the water in 2021. The all-time record (since the stat started being kept in 2003) is 93 in 2007. That must be under threat this year!
  • 50 — Most balls hit in the water during a round. That came in the first round in 2007, more than were hit in the water during the entire 2019 tournament.
  • 10 — Aces at No. 17. There were none from 2003-16, but there have been three in the last five years: Sergio Garcia (2017), Ryan Moore (2019) and Shane Lowry (2022)
  • 12 — Highest score ever on this hole came in 2005 when Bob Tway quadrupled the par. It ties the highest score on any hole at TPC Sawgrass during a Players (12 was also shot on the 4th hole once). Last year, Ben An made a 11 in the first round.

Usually the pros just grab a wedge and they’re pretty confident about making the green… they’re normally worrying about where to place the ball on the green, however, the torrential rain that stopped play on Thursday and Friday was followed on Saturday by gusts of 35mph.  Conversations between players and caddies revolved around 6 and 7 irons rather than which wedge to use!  The first three players to step onto the 17th tee all landed in the water – and they weren’t rookies – they were all high profile golfers.

Then Collin Morikawa was the first of the next three-ball to step onto the tee.  Guess where he ended up,,,, yes, in the water!

I wonder if the record for “most balls in the water” at the 17th will be broken this year!  Our 9th hole doesn’t seem so tricky any more!!!