By the numbers, No. 17 on The Players Stadium at TPC Sawgrass would rank as one of the least remarkable holes on the PGA Tour.
It measures just 130 yards and is one of the largest greens on the golf course — a combination that would ordinarily invite a barrage of birdies at most tour stops.
Except The Players Championship isn’t most Tour stops, and No. 17 isn’t any ordinary hole.
Over the years, the notorious island green has taken countless dreams of winning the Tour’s richest prize and buried them in a watery grave. It’s for that reason that No. 17, which requires nothing more than a straightforward wedge, has the uncanny ability to haunt the world’s best players before they even set foot on the first tee.
For proof, during NBC’s coverage of The Players, notice how many times it replays someone sneaking a glimpse of the island while standing in the 16th fairway.
Combine the mind games of No. 17 with the spectator-friendly design of TPC Sawgrass’ The Stadium Course and what you have is perhaps the best theater in all of golf.
Every fan can surely agree that the atmosphere surrounding the 17th on Sunday at The Players is one of the most dramatic and raucous in the game. Where many of us disagree, however, is our opinion of the hole itself.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to the island green: love and hate. The lovers defend the 17th as a pure test of golf. Execute a relatively easy shot, or pay the ultimate price. Plain and simple.
The haters, on the other hand, decry the island green as a tacky abomination, and curse Pete Dye’s sick sense of humor. They argue a significant number of golfers are defeated before they even arrive, a fate that seems contrary to the spirit of this beautiful game.
I’ve been fortunate to tee it up on the 17th three times, and managed to find dry land — plus Old Man Par — on every occasion. Despite this string of good luck, however, I would have to align myself as a hater.
Yes, I love the drama that the 17th brings to Sunday at The Players, but the purist in me firmly believes that a truly great hole gives the golfer multiple ways to make par. With an island green, there’s only one.
But I’m just a lowly weekend warrior with a laptop. What do you think?