PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA (AP) — When play resumed at noon on Saturday, Scottie Scheffler had the unenviable task of hitting the first full swing to the par-3 island green.
Scheffler, who had won two of his last three starts and was 5 under for the event, tried to fly a 7-iron that bounced once on land but had too much steam and ended with a splash with the wind roaring from left to right and hurting him.
Next up, Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele and four-time major champion Brooks Koepka both came up short. Three water balls, three shoots. They weren’t the only ones who had to make the humiliating walk to the drop zone. Fans erupted in applause as Schauffele found the putting surface from 90 yards, as if he’d hit his first shot straight.
One group later, Collin Morikawa, the reigning British Open champion and perhaps the best iron player in the game at the moment, attempted to chip a 7-iron but admitted he struck it “whiffy.” Wind is the single most indecisive factor in golf.
“The hole isn’t that difficult,” Morikawa added. “All you have to do now is commit to your shot.” I simply didn’t.”
A modest 146-yard shot over water embarrassed four world-class golfers. Only four of the first 122 players to play the course found the water at 17 during calm conditions on Thursday and rain on Friday, but the first four to do so in gusts of up to 43 miles per hour during the day were mistreated to the tune of 19 over.
136-yard par 3.
36 of 60 players hit No. 17 green in Round 2.
19 found the water 💦 pic.twitter.com/TRLvVzouzY
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 13, 2022
Pete Dye, the architect of TPC Sawgrass, was smiling somewhere in the heavens. “I never believed a 132-yard hole could terrify these top golfers,” Dye added.
Before his death in 2020, Dye, who lived in Indianapolis for a long time, compared the drama at 17 to the blood sport of seeing a 10-car pile-up at the Indy 500. “He enjoys watching good racing, but he’s secretly hoping for a crash.” And the 17-year-old is waiting for the crash, for some celebrity to smack his tee shot into the lake.”
The total number of balls that died in the watery tomb on Saturday was 29. On Saturday, there were ten balls struck in the water at No. 17 – nine tee shots and Emiliano Grillo’s two in the water on route to a quadruple-bogey 7 – and that was just during the first round.
Michael Thompson’s tee shot was so far right that it was “closer to the flower island than the island green,” according to PGA Tour Live’s John Swantek. He doubled his money.
Despite the fact that the hole was trimmed to 136 yards, another 19 souvenirs were left in the bottom of the lake during the second round, which finished with a scoring average of 3.695 when play was halted due to darkness.
As the chaos at 17 intensified, Koepka, Morikawa, and Scheffler returned to the course immediately after finishing their first rounds and began playing the back nine. On their second round, just over three hours later, all three players rinsed their tee drives, including Scheffler’s shank, as the wind was at its most unpredictable.
“It’s luck,” Koepka remarked, referring to the fact that he has dumped 10 balls in the water since 2015 and has played the hole in 20-over par. “You can’t do anything.” We encountered a strong wind. It wasn’t going any tougher for anyone else out here than it was for me, Scottie, and Xander. That was my first shot of the day when we first teed off, and I felt it was blowing the hardest. Then, when we were on 16, it picked up again. On 16, I hit an 8-iron that soared 205 yards. Hit it 105 on 17.”
Tiger Woods and Fred Couples told defending champion Justin Thomas on Tuesday that they had heard him terrible stories about hitting 5- or 6-iron into 17 on frigid March days in the past. He was ecstatic to walk away with two pars.
“Perhaps I shouldn’t have brought it up earlier in the week.” After shooting a bogey-free 69, Thomas commented, “They were both giving me a hard time last night about how difficult it was going to be today.” “It’s a lot more fun when someone gives you a narrative about how they did it rather than having to do it yourself.”
TPC’s 17th, a hole with no way out, may be the perfect combination of terror, exhilaration, and pressure. Chesson Hadley was ecstatic after making back-to-back birdies on Nos. 15 and 16, until he discovered he’d be the one to take the next tee. When asked what the most nerve-wracking shot of the day was, he joined one of the players to slam his tee shot at 17.
“Really? It’s blowing 100 miles per hour in my face. He answered, “17, yeah,” pointing out that his shot inflated in the air and landed short of the green. “I’m sure it went backwards in the end.”
Sepp Straka, who was 5 under and tied for third when he washed two in the water and made quadruple-bogey 7, took it the hardest at 17.
Among all the horror stories, it’s worth noting that not every athlete on the field had a bad day. At 17, Daniel Berger hit his tee ball to 16 feet and rolled in the first of only two birdies on the day.
Berger remarked, “You’re not even looking at the flag.” “All you’re trying to do is get it back on dry land, make a par, and get out of there.”
Hudson Swafford’s second ball from the drop zone nearly spun off the green after his tee shot ended up in the water.
“I’m at a loss for what else to do.” He expressed his dissatisfaction by saying.
Just wait until tomorrow; there could be another 10-car pileup.