News & Opinion

What's in store at TPC Sawgrass' 17th?

Well, if it’s the weekend at the Players Championship, if there’s wind in the air, pressure on the gauge and nerves in the belly, somebody’s gettin’ wet. 

The Players is known for several things — a big purse, big names and big-time exemptions for the winner (five years on the PGA Tour). But most of all, it is known for the 17th hole, the diabolical design of Alice Dye — Pete Dye’s wife, who passed away at age of 91 on Feb. 1. 

Alice’s Wonderland at TPC Sawgrass, or the “Island Green,” is where good intentions go to die, where wayward shots dash the hopes of poor souls. Management estimates more than 150,000 golf balls go to their watery grave at the hole each year. But those moments become especially dramatic on a Sunday at the Players.

Mark Calcavecchia once described how much anxiety the simple tee shot can create: ”It is like having a 3 o'clock appointment for a root canal,” said Calcavecchia of a hole that played measured just 121 yards in Thursday's opening round. “You're thinking about it all morning and you feel bad all day. You kind of know sooner or later you've got to get to it.” 

So you’re probably wondering, how bad can it be? 

Historically, the 2007 championship is the worst it ever has been for the four days of the championship. That year, which was the first time the event was played in May, 93 balls went fishing. A record 50 of those splashed down during an especially challenging first round, which featured swirling, 39 mph wind gusts. Only 12 balls got wet during the final round. 

The heaviest weekend toll took place two years earlier, when 25 balls took a dip at 17 on Saturday and 28 more on Sunday. That 2005 tournament, played in March, also produced its highest score at 17. During the third round, Bob Tway put four balls in the water before three-putting for a 12. 

The record for heartbreak probably belongs to Len Mattiace, who came to the Sawgrass 17th on Sunday in 1998, a mere stroke off the lead. By the time Mattiace departed, he was out of contention, having knocked two in the water, including one from a greenside bunker, and carded a Yogi Berra — that is, a quintuple-bogey 8. 

That’s not to say miracles don’t happen. In 1987, Paul Azinger birdied the hole all four days. That’s Tway’s 12 the easy way.

The forecast is for 14 mph winds and lots of rain on Sunday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. What will happen at TPC Sawgrass No. 17? Can’t wait to find out.

THE GOLF COURSE BANDIT
Cameron Cockarell might be a lot of things, including the burglar of several golf courses in Illinois. But you can tell he’s not a golf writer. To explain:

The Granite City man is being charged with breaking into Annbriar Golf Course in Waterloo, Ill. What’s more, authorities say Cackarell is a suspect in at least five other area golf course burglaries that took place in recent weeks.

Among the incidents was a break-in at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning at Arlington Greens Golf Course in Granite City. Arlington Greens general manager and head pro Mark Marcuzzo explained the suspect used a pry bar to break into a storage shed, stood on a cooler, tore a small opening in the ceiling and climbed in to get access to the clubhouse.

He then crawled along the ceiling for some 16 feet before dropping into the women’s bathroom, the ceiling collapsing in with him. From there, the crafty thief made his way into the clubhouse, swiped a safe, which had only a little money in it, and stole autographed memorabilia from a storage room. But most remarkable, he didn’t touch the thousands of dollars in golf equipment and apparel displayed throughout the clubhouse.

There you have it — no self-respecting golf writer leaves all that swag behind.

“I was shocked that he didn’t take anything else out; just stunned,” Marcuzzo said.

Crockarell, 50, has been charged with burglary and property damage for the AnnBriar job. More charges are likely for golf course break-ins in Madison, Monroe, and Macoupin counties, as stolen items from those courses were found in his car.

COPY CAT
With his 14 major championships, 80 PGA Tour wins and explosive impact on the game of golf, Tiger Woods may never be duplicated. But for the record, he has, at least once, been imitated. Actor and impressionist Conor Moore copies the Big Cat in a comical new commercial for the Bridgestone Tour B RX ball. Wonder how many mulligans were spent before Woods kept a straight face?  

>> https://twitter.com/TigerWoods/status/1106204673634119680

DEFINITIONS
The term “coxswain” refers to ... 

A: a crew member in the sport of rowing who sits in the stern, steers the boat and directs the rowers.

B: just a silly little pet name GFore brand founder Mossimo Giannulli and actress wife Lori Loughlin occasionally used for their daughter ... on college applications.

C: an unconventional breaking pitch developed by former big league pitcher Danny Cox and current Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright.

D: a cone-shaped object struck with rackets in the game of badminton.

The correct answer is A, and possibly B.

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING
On this day in 1952, Mildred “Babe” Didrikson-Zaharias won the LPGA Titleholders Championship, her seventh major. Did you also know that on March 20, 1934, Didrikson pitched one inning of exhibition baseball for the Philadelphia Athletics against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The right-hander retired only one batter, but got three outs in her one inning of duty.

According to a New York Times account, she walked Danny Taylor, and nicked Johnny Frederick with a pitch, before Joe Stripp lined to shortstop and into a triple play. Three up, three down, nothing to it.

New York World-Telegram sports scribe Joe Williams once said of Didrickson-Zaharias, “It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring.” 

Yikes.


Dan O’Neill, who covered golf for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 1989 to 2017, is an editorial consultant on golf for Fox Sports. His articles have appeared in publications such as Golfweek, Golf World, Golf.com and The Memorial magazine. 

Email: dan13153@gmail.com
Twitter: @WWDOD