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tpc sawgrass

17 shots in two holes! How TPC Sawgrass tormented two PGA Tour stars

Aaron Wise and Nick Watney endured nightmares on holes 17 and 18 in the first round of the Players Championship as the closing stretch at TPC Sawgrass showed its teeth
 

The closing stretch at TPC Sawgrass, host of the Players Championship, is not to be taken lightly – with one bad shot having the potential to start a catastrophic chain reaction.

The second shot of Viktor Hovland on 16 in the first round showed how luck can shine brightly on you, but the plights of Aaron Wise and Nick Watney show how your hopes can come tumbling down in an instant.

Hovland was on the brink of disaster on this par-5, which appears a good birdie opportunity but requires pinpoint precision.

His approach bounded deep into the putting surface and now he began to sweat. Somehow, Hovland’s ball stopped rolling on the red-painted grass that showed the penalty area.

“Walking off I was thinking – that’s probably going to be a chip,” Hovland said.” Then I stepped up there and realised that I have to putt this one because I didn’t really have a stance.

“I had to kind of get pretty far left of the ball and aim pretty far to the right just to get a stance. So I wasn’t too concerned about falling back in, unless I just suddenly got vertigo.”

One more roll and his ball would’ve joined thousands of others at the bottom of the water. Hovland survived a scare and benefitted from a rare moment of forgiveness at a treacherous point of the golf course.

That’s more than you can say for Watney, who discovered why the 17th hole is one of the most feared and revered holes in the world.

After the ecstasy of Hayden Buckley’s hole-in-one with just the sixth shot of the day, Watney showed how the 137-yard beast can eat you alive.

The 41-year-old hit his first tee shot through the famous island green, so he headed to the drop zone where he found the putting surface.

Watney’s struggles from there were arguably self-inflicted as he four-putted his way to a quadruple-bogey, with one of those being a one-handed miss from nine inches.

But Watney’s struggle also showed that even after overcoming a threatening tee shot, you’re still faced with an undulating green that takes no prisoners.

The five-time PGA Tour winner then found the water with his tee shot on the 18th hole, which is also more than you could say about Wise.

Wise had also just found the drink at 17. He probably would’ve settled for just one water ball on 18 had he known what was about to occur.

The 26-year-old hooked three tee shots into the lake left of the fairway. His fourth tee shot predictably went into the pine straw way right of the fairway.

Wise made a commendable up-and-down from 70 yards for a 10, which is the second-worst score ever on the hole behind Andre Stolz, who made an 11 at the 2005 Players Championship.

This led to a score of 80 and, just like that, his dream of Players Championship glory was up in smoke.

16, 17, and 18 at Sawgrass could certainly hold their own in an argument with Amen Corner and the Bear Trap for the hardest sequence of holes on the PGA Tour.

What score would you shoot at TPC Sawgrass? Tweet me and let me know!

Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spoken to the likes of Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson, to name just a few.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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