PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Scottie Scheffler had the unenviable honor of taking the first full swing to the island’s par-3 green when play resumed Saturday at noon.
With the wind howling from left to right and hurting, Scheffler, winner of two of his last three starts and sailing 5 under for the tournament, tried to fly a 7-iron that bounced once on land but had too much steam and ended up with a splash
Next up: Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele fell short as did four-time Grand Slam champion Brooks Koepka. Three shots, three water balls. All three had to walk the path of shame to the relegation zone and they would not be the last. When Schauffele found the green surface from 90 yards out, the fans cheered as if he had hit his first shot hard.
A group later, reigning British Open champion Collin Morikawa, who is arguably the best iron player in the game right now, tried to chip a 7-iron but said he hit “whiskey.” Nothing causes more indecision in golf than the wind.
“It’s not that hard,” Morikawa said of the hole. “You just have to commit to your shot. I just didn’t.
Four world-class players were embarrassed by a simple 146-yard shot over the water. Only four of the first 122 players to play the hole had found the water at 17 during calm conditions on Thursday and in the rain on Friday, but the first four to do so in wind gusts that were measured as high as 43 miles per hour during the day He claimed victim after victim.
Somewhere in the sky, TPC Sawgrass architect Pete Dye was smiling. “I never thought you could intimidate these big players with a 132-yard hole,” Dye said.
Dye, who lived in Indianapolis for a long time before his death in 2020, likened the drama at age 17 to the bloodsport of watching a 10-car crash at the Indy 500. “He likes to watch good racing, but secretly he’s looking for an accident, too. And the 17-year-old is waiting for that crash, waiting for some star to hit his tee shot into the water.”
Saturday was a 29-ball pile-up, the total number of balls that suffered a watery grave. There were 10 balls hit into the water at No. 17 on Saturday: nine tee shots and Emiliano Grillo hit two into the water en route to making a quadruple bogey 7, and that was just during the first-round finish.
Kevin Kisner of the United States reacts to his shot on the 17th green during the second round of the Players Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 12, 2022 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Michael Thompson’s tee shot was so wide to the right that PGA Tour Live’s John Swantek said it was “closer to the island of flowers than the island of green.” He did double.
Although they shortened the hole to 136 yards, another 19 souvenirs were left at the bottom of the lake during the second round, playing to a scoring average of 3.695 before play was suspended for darkness.
As the chaos on the 17th increased, Koepka, Morikawa and Scheffler, came right back after completing their first rounds and started on the back nine. Just over three hours later, all three flushed their tee shots in their second round, including a shank from Scheffler, as the wind was more unpredictable.
“It’s luck,” said Koepka, who has been particularly unlucky at the time, having dipped 10 balls in the water since 2015 and played the hole at 20-over-par. “There’s nothing you can do. We hit a flurry. I don’t think it was any harder for anyone here than when Scottie, Xander and I played. When we first went out, that was my first hit of the day, and I thought I was blowing harder. Then it picked up again when we were on 16. I hit an 8-iron, flew 205 yards on 16. 17 hit 105.”
Defending champion Justin Thomas said Tuesday that Tiger Woods and Fred Couples had told him horror stories about hitting a 5- or 6-iron at 17 in the cold days of March in the past. He was delighted to walk away with a couple of pairs.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have talked about it earlier in the week. They were both giving me a hard time last night about how tough today was going to be,” Thomas said after shooting a bogeyless 69. that.”
There may not be a better combination of terror, excitement, and pressure than TPC’s 17.the, a hole with no place to rescue. Chesson Hadley celebrated back-to-back birdies at Nos. 15 and 16 until he realized that meant he had the honor at the next tee. He joined one of the players to nail his tee shot on 17, they asked him what was the most stressful shot of the day.
“Really? I mean, he’s blowing 100 on 17 in my face. 17, yeah,” he said, noting his shot billowed up in the air and missed the green. “I bet he was going backwards at the end.” .
No one received it worse with 17 than Sepp Straka, who was 5-under and tied for third when he rinsed two in the water and quadruple-bogeyed 7.
Amid all the stories of heartbreak, it should be noted that not every player on the field experienced heartbreak. Daniel Berger hit his tee shot at 16 feet and rolled in the putt for the first of just two birdies on the day at 17.
“You’re not even looking at the flag,” Berger said. “You’re just trying to get it on solid ground and do a couple and get out of there.”
After Hudson Swafford hit his tee shot into the water, the next one from the relegation zone almost went off the green.
“I do not know what else to do?” she said in frustration.
Just wait, tomorrow there may be another 10-car crash to watch.