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TPC's 17th is a hole lot of trouble

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Stewart Cink

This guy has been knocking on the door all season. He led the PODS Championship until a Sunday meltdown. He finished tied for third at the Players Championship last year, and he'll likely be lurking again this weekend.

Anthony Kim

At 22, Kim proved he is worthy of being labeled a phenom. He won last weekend's Wachovia Championship by five shots, so there is no reason to discount one of the tour's hottest players.

Phil Mickelson

You can't discount the 2007 champion. He has won once this season, and he treats this tournament like a major. He is the highest ranked player in the tournament now that Tiger Woods is out.

Trevor Immelman

Granted, this isn't a major, but wouldn't it be something if Immelman wins the biggest tournament in April and the biggest in May? His game has clearly rounded into shape the past few months, and he has proven he has the nerves for the big tournaments.

Rory Sabbatini

Why not? Tiger Woods isn't here, so Sabbatini can relax. He has played well in big tournaments, and in 2007 he finished tied for 44th despite a second-round 79.

Locals in the tournament

Greg Kraft, Clearwater

Tim Petrovic, Dade City

Ryuji Imada, Tampa

Woody Austin, Plant High

17th hole nightmares

Sean O'Hair, 2007: Before he won the 2008 PODS Championship, O'Hair trailed Phil Mickelson by two shots when he approached the par-3 17th hole. His 9-iron skipped on the back of the green and splashed into the water. His next shot from the drop area was also wet. O'Hair shot quadruple-bogey 7 and fell from second to 11th.

Bob Tway, 2005: Tway was four shots out of the lead in the third round when he hit four balls into the water and made 12, the highest score ever during the tournament. He went from a tie for 10th to a tie for 72nd.

Robert Gamez, 1990: In the third round, Gamez recorded 11 when he hit four balls into the water.

Angelo Spagnolo, 1985: Golf Digest sponsored a World's Worst Golfer contest at TPC Sawgrass, and Spagnolo recorded 66 on the 17th hole. He hit 27 balls in the water from the tee box and the drop area. He finally had to putt his ball up the alley that leads to the green.

Interesting facts about the 17th

• The first hole-in-one was recorded on Nov. 10, 1980, by Larry Denton. Since then there have been 138 holes-in-one on No. 17. There have been six aces in the tournament (Brad Fabel, Brian Claar, Fred Couples, Joey Sindelar, Paul Azinger and Miguel Angel Jimenez).

• From front to back, the green is 78 feet in length.

• Divers collect balls from the 17th four times per year. Through the year, they collect over 150,000 balls.

• In 2007, a record 50 balls landed in the water in one round, which broke the record of 45 set in 2000.

• In 1999, Fred Couples hit his tee shot into the water, then rehit from the tee box and his 9-iron shot landed in the hole for par.

• The hole was not originally supposed to be an island, but they discovered a vein of pure sand around the hole that was perfect for sand capping the fairways. They kept digging until the vein was depleted, then it was suggested they fill the hole with water.

What they say about the 17th

"I've always thought that that hole is too gimmicky for the 17th hole of a championship. As far as the eighth hole, I think that would be a fantastic eighth hole, but not as the 71st hole of a tournament or 17th hole of your round."

Tiger Woods

"It is like having a 3 o'clock appointment for a root canal. 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."

Mark Calcavecchia

"I don't think any of us really thought of the 17th hole. It just kind of arrived. We just kept digging. Actually, I think my wife Alice came out one day, looked at the area and said let's just make it an island green."

Pete Dye, Hall of Fame course designer


Players Championship

When/where: Today-Sunday; Ponte Vedra Beach

Course: TPC Sawgrass, Players Stadium Course (7,215 yards, par 72)

Purse: $9.5-million; winner's share: $1.71-million

Defending champion: Phil Mickelson

17th hole: Live video coverage 9 a.m. today and Friday, 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday,

Weather today: Partly cloudy, high 88, wind 10-20 mph, 20 percent chance of rain.

Around the course

• The PGA Tour says that 49 of the top 50 players in the FedEx Cup standings are at TPC. But it has only 45 of the top 50 from the world ranking, making it the fourth-strongest field of the year using that criteria, behind two World Golf Championships and the Masters.

• TPC raised its prize money to $9.5-million, with $1.71-million going to the winner.

• Of the 144-man field, 101 players have won PGA Tour events.

Phil Mickelson will try to become the first player to win back to back. Jack Nicklaus tied for fifth in 1977, the best finish by a defending champion.

• There has not been a playoff at TPC since 1987, the longest streak on the PGA Tour.

TPC's 17th is a hole lot of trouble 05/07/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 7, 2008 9:02pm]
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