Tiger Woods did something he’d never done in 68 previous times playing the par-3 17th hole at The Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. He rinsed not one, but two balls in golf’s most infamous water hazard and made a quadruple-bogey seven to tumble down the leaderboard in the second round of The Players Championship.
“It flew a lot farther than I thought,” Woods said of his first swing with a pitching wedge. “I was pretty ticked.”
And just like that, the brainchild of that evil genius, course architect Pete Dye, had claimed another victim.
“I never thought you could intimidate these great players with a 132-yard hole,” Dye once said.
For the record, the hole was playing 146 yards on this day and the pin was located five paces from the back edge.
Serendipity is responsible for the famed 17th island green. As the oft-told tale goes, the area around the green site contained the best pocket of sand for the course and the more they excavated to use on other fairways, the deeper and wider the cavity became.
“I told Alice we have this area where we’re going to put the par-3 17th and we don’t have anything but water,” Dye explained. “She said to me: ‘Throw a bulkhead out in the middle of it and put some sand and dirt on top on it.’ A light went on, and that’s exactly how it happened.”
Woods’s tee shot hung in the air with anticipation. That’s the beauty of the hole. There’s no margin for error: On or off. Wet or dry. The result is black or white.
“It’s do-or-die,” former World No. 1 Luke Donald once said.
After Woods’ ball trickled into the water, he said he considered re-teeing, but elected to make the walk of shame to the drop zone.
“I figured I can handle an 80-yard shot and obviously I can’t,” he said.
His second effort to find the green came out too flat and hopped once and sunk to the bottom of the lake. He was the only player in the morning wave yesterday y to dunk a ball in the water at 17. Since 2003, 757 balls had splashed into the water during the championship. A day earlier, Ryan Moore slam-dunked his tee shot for the ninth hole-in-one at No. 17.
Woods’s big number spoiled a strong start — he was three-under for the day at that point. His third attempt stayed dry and he took two putts from 20 feet. In his career, he had made 11 bogeys and four doubles, but that was his first seven on the hole.
“It shouldn’t be that hard,” he said. “It’s just a wedge.”
Woods rallied to shoot a one-under 71 for a 36-hole total of three-under 141. “Other than 17 today, I really haven’t done a whole lot wrong,” said Woods, who also said his neck, which forced him to withdraw prior to the Arnold Palmer Invitational a week ago, was fine. Woods and his fellow competitors continue to chase Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, who started birdie-eagle-birdie, was 11-under through 34 holes, with Rory McIlroy nine under through 30 holes.
Fleetwood is seeking his first victory on the PGA Tour and American soil. The leader in the clubhouse at nine-under is Jim Furyk, who didn’t get into the field until Sunday, and shot an eight-under 64, his lowest round in 80 competitive rounds here. Kevin Kisner, a runner-up in 2015, posted his second straight 68 and is tied with 2016 champion Jason Day.
Offaly’s Shane Lowry won’t be around for the weekend after shooting three-over 147, but with cooler and more blustery conditions and possibly rain predicted, Woods isn’t giving up hope that he could still have the last laugh.
“Anybody who makes the cut has got a chance to win this tournament,” he said.