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Golf Australia Express : Issue 35
covEr story thE GolF haS many IconS. from players to courses and destinations, they elicit fond memories of character, mystique and excitement. Then there’s Stadium Course hole 17 at TPC Sawgrass. An icon, sure. A smile-inducing one? well, that depends which side of the ropes you’re on. for players, the tiny island green at this par- 3 brings out just one emotion each year: fear. Of course, at just 137 yards (125m) it shouldn’t be difficult to navigate. not for these guys anyway. After all it’s just a wedge or a 9-iron depending on the wind. but add a whole lot of water to an otherwise tame hole and all of a sudden we’ve got a real knee-knocker of a tee shot on our hands. yep, even the pros hate water. especially when it surrounds most of their target. thE Story bEhInd golf’s most iconic hole is an interesting one. Its designer—the remarkable Pete Dye—actually created it by accident. needing to spread sand found around the 17th green that was scarce elsewhere at TPC Sawgrass, Dye effectively fashioned out the near- island green we now know. And while he wasn’t happy with the forced alteration of his original design back in 1980, three decades on he can only smile. what was intended to be a simple par-3 has now become one of the most famous and feared in golf. Like golfers, course architects can get lucky. Players in recent years have come clean on that fear, telling anyone who’d listen how they feel playing the 17th at The PLAyeRS. It’s not like they had much of a choice. Let’s just say you don’t need to be a beagle to smell the collective ‘soiling of pants’ as players make the daunting 100-yard walk from the safety of the 16th green to the nakedness of the 17th tee. And if your nose ain’t that sensitive, well, you’ll still see the trepidation in their eyes. Some thrive on that fear while others crumble. Sean O’hair’s dramatic quadruple-bogey 7 in 2007— which ended up costing him $747,000—immediately springs to mind. If ever a single golf hole highlighted the fragility of the mental side of golf— even for the best players— the ‘Island Green’ (although technically a peninsula) is it. This penultimate hole is often a deciding one. Over the years we’ve seen incredible hole-in-ones, unbelievable putts that were “better than most”, winged thieves pinching balls, and more aquatic excitement than a water theme park. oF thoSE Who’ll be playing at this year’s event, none have found the water more here than Aaron baddeley and heath Slocum, both of whom have splashed it seven times since 2002, while one of the favourites in Phil Mickelson has half a dozen rinses at 17 to his name. we guarantee you there'll be many more shiny balls sent to a watery grave this week. OTG THIS WEEK'S POLL Sean O'Hair has felt the nasty bite of the Island Green. It cost him $747,000 in 2007.