With trouble on both sides, the par-3 17th at the Ocean Course is one of the most difficult holes on the course. (Photo: Kiawah Island Golf Resort)
With trouble on both sides, the par-3 17th at the Ocean Course is one of the most difficult holes on the course. (Photo: Kiawah Island Golf Resort)

No. 17, where dreams -- and scores -- go to waste

There are longer par-3s at the Ocean Course, but none is more intimidating -- or nasty -- than the 17th hole. On Friday it measured just 164 yards, but make no mistake, they are 164 of the most dangerous yards on the property.

By T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- If you're one of those people who would love to be in the room when a dentist performs a Novocain-free root canal, the 17th hole at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course -- site of the 68th Senior PGA Championship -- is the place for you.

In a matter of 45 minutes, the par-3 that played 164 yards on Friday may have seen more touchdowns than the NFL's Detroit Lions have seen in the last three seasons. There weren't any two-point conversions, but there was at least one successful extra point. That belonged to Danny Edwards, a five-time winner on the PGA TOUR in the late-1970s and 80s.

The thing about the 17th hole at the Ocean Course is this: It doesn't look too long, but it's got more trouble than a dark alley at night. Off the tee, the ball has to sail over a mass of water, which also wraps around the entire right side of the green. Logic tells the player to bail out left; however, that's no bargain either.

Take Larry Mackin for example. He's the PGA Head Professional at the 36-hole Leisure World complex in Mesa, Ariz. His adventure on 17 Friday was anything but leisurely.

Mackin was one of those players who attempted to take the water out of play by staying left. Only trouble for Mackin was that he nuked his tee shot left and over everything. When it finally came to rest, the ball had nestled behind the corporate bleachers just behind the green. With that, Mackin was given a free drop on the trampled-down sand cart path.

In an attempt to get the ball on or near a green he couldn't see from his vantage point, Mackin then chunked the chip. His ball hung up at the crest of the hill he was trying to knock it over and nestled into more sand. Another chunked chip and two putts left Mackin with his double-bogey 5.

Going left of the green doesn't necessarily take the water out of play. Enter Edwards, who didn't get wet, but certainly walked off the green steamed.

Edwards' tee shot found the left greenside waste area. With its 12-foot high Mick Jagger lip, players who have the misfortune of playing a shot out of this waste area need to get the ball up quickly and stop it on a dime so as not to zip it through the green and into the water.

As he walked up to the waste area, Edwards -- 11 over par at the time -- was overheard telling members of the gallery, "I wish I'd never come."

Apparently the waste area heard that comment.

Edwards lined up his first shot, dug into his stance, then splashed the ball up and into the lip, which sent the ball rolling back to his feet. Next shot, same thing. Fourth shot? Back to his feet again, as if the ball were a boomerang. Finally, on his fifth shot, Edwards skulled the ball through the lip and onto the green. Two putts from 15 feet later and Edwards had his touchdown and extra point to move to 15 over. 

Moments before Edwards' adventure, Japan's Jet Ozaki arrived at the 17th tee -- his eighth hole of the day -- just two shots off the lead at 2 under for the tournament and 3 under for the day. When he left, he was five shots off the lead at 1 over for the tournament and even par for the day.

What happened? Ozaki had the misfortune of finding the same waste area, but he hit the lip only twice before finally playing a terrific shot with a one-armed follow through to about 10 feet. Adding insult to injury, Ozaki's bid for a double-bogey lipped around the entire hole and he had to settle for triple-bogey 6.

Not even Ben Crenshaw, a two-time Masters winner looking for his first win on the Champions Tour in his 100th career start, was spared from doom.

Gentle Ben was just one shot off the lead on 17 before disaster struck. Again, it was that nasty greenside waste area. His 4-iron tee shot just missed being free and clear, but instead ricocheted off the lip and down into the waste area. Unlike those before him, Crenshaw didn't need multiple shots to get out. Instead, it took one thin screamer that zoomed through the green and into the water.

"It was asphalt," Crenshaw said of his lie. "Really, there's no sand at all. And there's some places that do have sand, but I just, I had a bare spot."

Because of the yellow stakes for the water hazard, Crenshaw said he had three options: go back to the tee, go to the drop area 120 yards away, or maintain his sight line to the hole, while getting no closer to the hole. He chose option three and took his drop 50 yards away on the 18th tee box. From there, a pitch and two putts equaled a triple-bogey 6 to give back a day's worth of work.

"I won't forget it for awhile," he said. "You don't forget triple-bogeys. I wish I could -- it's not something to erase quickly. I'm going to try to figure out some different way to play the hole. I'll be thinking about that more. But that's what can happen very easily out here."

To wit, during Thursday's first round it was by far the toughest hole on the course with a stroke average of 3.714. Only 48.7 percent of the field hit the green in regulation.

It's not all about spilled milk on No. 17, though. Dave Eichelberger made easy work of the hole. He stuffed his tee shot to 6 inches and tapped in for birdie.

The lesson is -- don't get caught up in the beauty of the surroundings. Sure, the coastline of the Atlantic just to the right of the hole is gorgeous, but the 17th is arguably 164 of the ugliest yards in golf.

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