Holding the title for the richest event in golf, the world’s best are earning their money right now at The Players Championship. Held at TPC Sawgrass in Florida, the tournament’s first two rounds dished out 25+ mph (40 kmh) wind gusts, leading to incredibly high scores and tons of golf balls finding the water. The most punishing hole was the iconic Par 3 17th, providing a brutal spectacle that has to be seen to be believed.
On Saturday, the island-green 17th saw 29 balls find the drink, compared to four across the first two days. There were 20 double bogeys or worse, compared to three on the first two days. Nobody was safe, with PGA Tour stars Collin Morikawa, Xander Schaufele, Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka all forced to take the dreaded drop. Four-time PGA Tour winner Kevin Kisner summed up the conditions heading towards the clubhouse: “when I got to 17 and 18 you couldn’t hardly stand up, much less hit a golf shot.”
The treacherous winds sparked a heated debate, with pundits discussing whether the conditions were fair. Speaking on the Golf Channel, Brandel Chamblee argued the high winds “exposed a major flaw” in the hole design.
“You were guessing on that tee”, said Chamblee. “Some players ended up in the water through no fault of their own. You can choose right, hit right and make an eight. You could make chipping areas if you extended the front and back of the green some 10 yards on a day like this the hole is too penal and tilts it towards a chance rather than chess.”
However, Paul McGinley said “chance” was all part of the game: “This is not a particularly intimidating hole. You have a huge green here, some 4,000 square feet, and it’s only 135 yards. Over the last five years, 80 per cent of players have hit the green. The wind exposed it, but that is part of the game and what makes it great.”
McGinley then added: “Luck is a huge element in professional golf, and this was a freak day. We have to accept a freak day. All you can do is be in a state of mind to execute the shot and accept the consequences. If it happens to go in the water, it goes in the water. It was gripping TV, and you wanted to see what happened with the players. So much skill was required out there.”