The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass
The TPC at Sawgrass is one of the world's most difficult golf courses, spanning 7215 yards. While virtually every hole boasts considerable pitfalls for golfers, the course's most notable hole is the 17th. Known as the "Island Green," the par-3, 132-yard 17th can scare even the most skilled of professionals.
A fortunate accident
What is now one of the most famous holes in the world was designed by accident. The original plan called for the hole to be only somewhat surrounded by a lake, but during construction a crater was dug around the green. Designer Pete Dye's wife Alice suggested leaving the hole like that.
The 4-foot water surrounding the "Island Green" claims around 120,000 balls each year. Paid seven cents for each ball they recover, divers search for balls four times per year -- in January, April, July and October.
Current NBC Sports analyst and former professional PGA Tour golfer Johnny Miller on the 17th hole: "This was the only course that made me nervous as a player. I would think about it for days leading into the tournament. This course gives you the heebee jeebees."
In 2006, TPC Sawgrass underwent a reconstruction project. In addition to building a new clubhouse, many greens and fairways were done. That included the famed "Island Green," which is actually a peninsula.
In 2009's telecast of The Players Championship, NBC used 10 HD cameras on the 17th hole, including a microscopic lens embedded in the lip of the tiny front bunker. Two manned cameras also will be placed on the 17th hole. A camera operator is lifted by a crane 120 feet into the air above the trees from right of the 16th fairway where his camera has a clear view of 16, 17 and 18. Another camera operator is ferried to the island right of the 17th green where he is marooned for approximately eight hours to get reactions from the 17th tee and operate the super-slow-motion camera.
Tiger Woods needed a strong third-round performance at The Players Championship in 2001 to stay in contention, and a great putt on the 17th hole was exactly what he needed. Sixty feet away from the pin, Woods' putt looked like it was going to stop short and wide but then broke to the right and went into the hole. Woods went on to win the title the following day.
Success at Sawgrass
The "Island Green" also played a big part in Tiger Woods' success at TPC Sawgrass when he was an amateur. Playing in the finals of the U.S. Amateur, Woods had battled back from six holes down heading into the 17th hole. His birdie gave him his first lead of the tournament, and he went on to win the championship, becoming the event's youngest winner ever.
It only counted as a par, but Fred Couples' performance on the 17th hole in the 1999 Players Championship is part of the "Island Green's" legend. After hitting his first shot into the water, Couples teed off again. This time his ball flew into the cup. His shot has been dubbed a "hole-in-three."
Acing the 17th
Paul Azinger is one of just six golfers to record a hole-in-one on the "Island Green" during The Players Championship. His ace in 2000 put him in the company of Brad Fabel (1986), Brian Claar (1991), Fred Couples (1997), Joey Sindelar (1999) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (2002).
Bob Tway holds the undesirable record of highest hole score in tournament history at The Players Championship. The "Island Green" did him in. Tway's first two shots on the hole in 2005 flew over the green and into the water. His next two shots hit the front of the green but slid back into the water. Even after finally making it onto the green, Tway's troubles didn't cease. He three-putted for a total score of 12 on the par-3 hole.
On the edge
Precarious positions are the norm on the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, as Hal Sutton found out in 2000.
If you're lucky enough to have your ball stay on the green, you may not be lucky enough to have much room with which to work.