Memorable Moments: TPC Sawgrass' iconic 17th hole
The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass has seen its fair share of drama over the years. Its island green setting provides one of the most iconic holes in all of golf, and it plays a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the annual Players Championship.
While we revisit some of the hole’s most memorable moments, let’s spare a thought for Angelo Spagnola, a grocery shop owner from Pittsburgh, who shot a record high 66 at the venue’s penultimate hole. After hitting numerous balls into the water, his ignominy was spared only when offered the merciful solution of putting his way up the tee to the path and onto the green.
Most of these moments below were rather more enjoyable experiences.
Fred Couples’ ‘hole in three’ (1999)
Struggling at five-over-par during his opening round at the 1999 Players Championship, the ‘92 Masters champion watched helplessly as his tee shot plunged into the hazard.
Deciding against a trip to the drop zone, Couples hit again from the tee and watched, rather impassively, as the ball slam-dunked into the hole.
Though he ultimately scribbled down a three, this was about as far from a ho-hum par as you’re ever likely to see.
Miguel Angel Cabrera (2002)
Given that the eccentric Spaniard is European Tour record holder for the most holes in one, it is hardly surprising that his own ‘memorable moment’ on the 17th at TPC Sawgrass would be an ace. ‘The Mechanic’ remains the only non-American to achieve this particular feat.
After what had seemed like a flurry of hole-in-ones over the span of just five years, few would have thought that it would take a further 14 years to see another. (Around 1.30 in)
Will Wilcox (2016)
Who managed to end the above-mentioned drought? Step forward Will Wilcox.
In his second round of last year’s Players Championship, the Alabaman found the bottom of the cup from the 17th tee. Not a bad way to celebrate your first appearance at TPC Sawgrass as a professional golfer.
A double fist pump seemed the perfect celebration too.
A ‘Birdie’ at 17 (1998)
The 1998 Players Championship, won by Jason Leonard, is most widely remembered for the seagull who stole Steve Lowry’s ball at the 17th hole.
As Lowry looked on from the tee, the cheeky chap (or chappette) seemed determined to claim the American’s ball as it sat safely aboard the green. Soon both seagull and ball were airborne. The sneaky pilferer eventually lost its plunder, as the ball slipped from its grasp and into the murky depths beneath.
Further proof, if we ever needed it, that crime doesn’t pay.
Tiger Woods’ ‘Better than most’ putt (2001)
While not a hole-in-one, this putt from Tiger is one of the most memorable moments in the history of the event.
During his third round in 2001, the 14-time major winner was faced with a 60-foot putt which snaked in three different directions. The putt was quickly coined as ‘better than most’ by NBC commentator Gary Koch as it trundled towards the hole - a call which has become arguably more famous than the putt itself.
Tiger raised his putter aloft, initially in hope more than expectation, and the ball disappeared to the delight of the watching masses.
Fred Couples (1997)
Playing in the 1997 Players Championship as defending champion, Fred Couples sent the gathered galleries into absolute raptures as he secured the championship’s third hole-in-one in its history.
His tee shot landed safely aboard the surface of the 17th hole and tracked from 40 feet, unerringly, into the centre of the cup.
Sergio’s meltdown (2013)
Back in 2013, Sergio Garcia and the then world number one Tiger Woods were embroiled in a war of words which brought a mutual disliking firmly into the public eye.
As he stepped foot on the 17th tee, it was looking like Garcia would be challenging Woods for the title that year. A playoff seemed likely before the Spaniard hit two successive balls into the water.
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