At The Players Championship, the best golfers in the world spend most of their round thinking about the tee shot to the island-green par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass.
Sometimes, the 17th hole produces the highest scores at TPC Sawgrass — and at the worst time.
TPC Sawgrass’ 17th hole is Pete and Alice Dye’s most diabolical, most controversial and most well-known hole in their entire accomplished portfolio. And, most days, it plays about 140 yards. How can a shot that’s typically a 9-iron or pitching wedge for modern professionals prove so difficult? It’s because almost the entire putting surface and the tiny rough around it is surrounded by water — deep, gator-infested water.
When the wind picks up at TPC Sawgrass, or when the 17th green is particularly firm, the tee shot there gets even more difficult.
If the hole were surrounded by grass or sand, the hole wouldn’t be as interesting, controversial or challenging. But, in golf, water is very much a final destination. That means a lost ball in a hazard, a penalty shot and, at No. 17, the choice of playing from the tournament-assigned drop zone — which isn’t the best angle and is no bargain from 80 yards — or replaying the tee shot from the same spot where the player just rinsed the ball.
Sometimes that gets into a player’s head, and they hit multiple balls in the water, leading to high scores.
The highest score on No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass in the history of The Players Championship is 12, turned in by Bob Tway in the third round in 2005. It was ugly that year, as windy conditions forced a Monday finish where Fred Funk won. However, Tway came to the hole and hit two balls over the green and into the water — first from the tee, then from the drop zone. His next two shots were an over-compensation, landing short and in the water. With his ninth shot and his fifth ball, Tway found the green, only to three-putt from 40 feet for a 12.
Tway went from four shots off the lead to an eventual T-56 finish.
Robert Gamez previously held the record for highest score at No. 17 with an 11 in 1990.
Highest single-hole score on No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass
- 12 – Bob Tway, Round 3, 2005
- 11 – Robert Gamez, Round 3, 1990
- 10 – Phil Blackmar, Round 2, 1990
- 9 – Rex Caldwell, Round 2, 1983
- 9 – Roger Maltbie, Round 2, 1990
- 9 – Angel Cabrera, Round 1, 2012 (WD’d immediately after)
- 9 – Russell Knox, Round 3, 2016
- 9 – Zac Blair, Round 2, 2017