The best players in the world have congregated at the TPC Sawgrass this week for The PLAYERS. They enjoy many benefits with playing on TOUR and one of those happens to be free golf balls. That comes in handy on a week like this when one particular hole has been known to consume more shots than fans might realize. The infamous par-3 17th hole is the signature hole and it challenges players despite measuring only 137 yards. In its brief history, the island hole has become one of the most renowned of its kind in the world. A small-maintained bunker protects the right side of it, which sometimes will be a relief to players who come up short of the green. Club selection on this hole is critically important; with the tricky winds of spring, the Championship could be won or lost here.
Last year, a total of 40 shots over the four rounds found a watery grave. Since 2003, every round at THE PLAYERS has seen multiple shots go swimming with the fishes. During that time, according to ShotLink, 11.2% of all tee shots (3,940 tee shots) end up in the water on the 17th hole (almost 1 in every 10 tee shots during tournament play).
From 2003 to 2011, holes 1-15 saw 1,018 balls find the water. Holes 16-18 collected another 1,108. A total of 2,126 balls have been left behind at the TPC Sawgrass by some of the best players in the world since 2003, according to ShotLink, during the PLAYERS.
Of the players in this year’s field (minimum of 8 rounds), nobody has hit their first tee shot in the water on No. 17 more than often than Aaron Baddeley and Heath Slocum (both have done so 7 times). Phil Mickelson has found the water on six of his tee shots. Bob Tway has the distinction of finding the water more than any other player on TOUR (9 times) since 2003.
Paul Azinger, in 1987, is the only player to birdie the 17th hole in all four rounds of a single PLAYERS Championship. Brian Gay (2011) is the last player to birdie No. 17 in each of the first three rounds. The player who has recorded the most birdies on the hole is Davis Love III. In 87 rounds he has made 18 birdies. Phil Mickelson is second to Love with 14 over 64 rounds. Meanwhile Scott Verplank and Robert Allenby possess the longest active streak since 2003, without a ball landing in the water at the 17th. Each man has made 32 successful attempts at finding land.