Course Spotlight

Craziest Shots From 17 at TPC Sawgrass

By T.J. Auclair
Published on
The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass has seen some wild moments over the years. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass has seen some wild moments over the years. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The Players Championship is taking place this week at TPC Sawgrass, and it's been another memorable year at one of Pete Dye's most iconic, and brutally difficult, designs.
On a course chockfull of memorable holes, however, none stick out as much as the iconic island green, par-3 17th.
At face value, this hole seems like it'd be a piece of cake for tour players. At its longest, the hole is about 175 yards and usually plays a lot shorter than that during tournament rounds, usually just a wedge or 9-iron for most players. It's the shortest hole on the course, after all.
But when you factor in the wind, the pressure of the tournament and the massive crowds, suddenly the hole is among the most daunting in golf.
Through the years, there have been crazy moments on No. 17. Here's a look at some of our favorites:
Will MacKenzie's "all-world" par in 2015
How it went down: The pin was way back and a little left of center, about 174 yards from the tee markers, so MacKenzie aimed that direction. He lost his tee shot just a touch to the left, and the ball proceeded to land on the railroad ties right on the edge of the green, where it somehow bounced back along the player's path to the green and on dry land. With his second shot, MacKenzie bounced a chip up the player's path and onto the green, within 3 feet of the hole. Of course, he made the putt.
Caddie Mark Urbanek throws ball onto the green 
How it went down: Every Wednesday of The Players, the caddies get to take their crack at the famous par-3 17th. The annual Caddie Competition benefits the Bruce Edwards Foundation (Edwards was the longtime caddie of Tom Watson, who died after a battle with ALS). In 2017, James Hahn's caddie, Mark Urbanek, decided that instead of hitting a shot, he would instead attempt to throw a ball onto the green from the tee box. He did just that and got it to stop within 20 feet of the hole something most players would gladly take all four tournament days.
Richard H. Lee's shortest consecutive shots in PGA Tour history 
In 2014, Richard H. Lee found the back fringe with his tee shot in the final round of the Players.  Lee attempted to hit a "belly" wedge onto the green.
The problem? He very nearly missed the ball entirely.
Once the club made contact on the top of the ball, it traveled a mere inches. Realizing that perhaps the belly wedge wasn't the best idea, Lee then opted for his putter. The rough grabbed the putter and he nearly missed the ball again, sending it just a few inches further and still not on the green.
Proving that kids have the best sense of humor, Lee tweeted this out a day later about his blunder: 
A seagull steals Brad Fabel's ball
There's plenty of water around No. 17, which means there's also abundant wildlife. Rarely ever, however, do the animal residents of TPC Sawgrass' most famous hole insert themselves into the tournament conversation . . . minus one rogue seagull at The Players in 1998.
Feeling rather bold, a seagull landed on the island green and mozied over to Brad Fabel's golf ball. The seagull might've mistaken it for lunch or a souvneir for its nest, eventually picking it up with its beak, taking Fabel's ball airborne and then comically dropping it in the water after about 30 seconds.
You may be wondering, "Is that a penalty?" No chance. According to the Rule 18-1 of the Rules of Golf, "if your ball is moved by an outside influence, such as an animal or a spectator, there is no penalty to anyone and the ball must be replaced."
The Fred Couples hole-in-three
It could be argued that this is the craziest moment to ever happen on No. 17. In the first round of the 1999 Players Championship, fan favorite Fred Couples stepped to the tee. Like many before him — and countless thousands since then Couples splashed his tee shot into the water.
Nothing special, unique, or crazy there. But what happened next was amazing; arguably even more amazing than when Couples aced the same hole in 1997.
Couples re-teed and, playing his third shot, proceeded to knock that shot into the hole, on the fly, for the most unlikely of pars.
"I don't really know how hard I was trying on my third shot," Couples, a two-time Players Champion, admitted years later (he shot a 77 in that opening round, by the way). "If I don't make that shot, I think I shoot 80, 81 and probably miss the cut. Three days later, I was in fourth place."