Golfers fight the ‘island green’ – and it fights back – in The Players Championship

Webb Simpson

It’s one of the most iconic holes in golf but also one that can mess with golfers’ heads if they let it.

At first glance, the No. 17 “Island Green” on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. – home of The Players Championship – should be a piece of cake. At 132 yards, it should be an easy 9-iron shot over water onto a large, undulating green. Any weekend duffer should be able to make its par 3 and pros should be able to birdy or even make a hole in one. Most often do.

But throw in the psychological impact of the water surrounding on three sides, plus the wind and throng of spectators and suddenly that easy drive turns into shot after shot into the drink. More than a few golfers have had their games destroyed by it. Just ask Bob Tway (2005), Sergio Garcia (2013), Sean O’Hair (2007), J.B. Holmes (2017) and Hal Sutton (2000), all of whom have suffered memorable meltdowns over the years on good old No. 17. Little wonder, then why the PGA Tour has had a webcam there for years.

This year’s Players Championship will likely see more golfers falling victim to No. 17 when golf’s unofficial fifth major airs Thursday through Sunday, March 14-17, on Golf Channel and NBC. A field including Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Lucas Glover, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson and defending tournament champ Webb Simpson will try not to be one of them.

•Fans of open-wheel racing will want to take note this week as IndyCar returns for the 2019 season with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Airing Sunday, March 10, on NBC Sports Network, the 110-lap race is contested on a 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course on the waterfront of the Florida Gulf Coast city as a field including Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, Fernando Alonso, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves and Will Power will look to start the new year off with a win and get a jump on the series championship.

Last year, that driver was Sebastien Bourdais, who drove his No. 18 Coyne Racing Honda from the back of the 21-car field to pull away and take the checkered flag by more than 20 seconds over Graham Rahal. It was the France native and St. Pete transplant’s second consecutive win in his adopted home city.

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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