Fantasy Island For pros at the Players Championship, the notorious 17th hole is practically a par-2

March 30, 1998

The par-3 17th hole at the TPC at Sawgrass's Stadium Course
offers heart-thumping torment to amateurs, who plunk about
40,000 balls a year--nearly one per player--into the
gator-infested waters around the hole's island green. But for
Tour pros, says Corey Pavin, "the hole is pretty easy."

How easy? Over the 16 years that the Players Championship has
been held at Sawgrass, the 141-yard 17th ranks only 10th in
degree of difficulty at the Stadium Course. At last year's
Players the pros roasted architect Pete Dye's little monster for
a 2.952 average, making it the tournament's fourth-easiest hole
and, as the chart below left shows, one of the least demanding
par-3s on the Tour in 1997.

Easy or not, the hole is often a crucial part of winning at
Sawgrass. Four of this decade's Players champs--Fred Couples in
1996 (above), Greg Norman in '94, Davis Love III in '92 and
Jodie Mudd in '90--clinched victory with deuces here, and in '95
Lee Janzen's brilliant up-and-down 3 led to his one-stroke win
over Bernhard Langer.

One of the 17th's most dramatic moments came in '94 when Tiger
Woods conquered the island. Woods, down by six holes early in
his U.S. Amateur final against Trip Kuehne, holed a 15-footer
for birdie to go one up at 17, then unleashed his first
nationally televised fist pump. He then parred 18 to begin his
run of three straight Amateur titles.

The hole's most hapless victim was amateur Angelo Spagnolo, who
hit 27 balls into the drink during a 1985 tournament for the
nation's worst avid golfers. He finally tapped a ball up the
cart path to the green and two-putted for a 66 on the hole.
Spagnolo, 43, hasn't returned to Sawgrass but hopes to do so.
"It's not really that hard a hole," he says.

COLOR PHOTO: BEN VAN HOOK [Fred Couples on 17th hole of Sawgrass Stadium Golf Course]

RANK, EVENT COURSE HOLE YARDS AVG.

1. British Open Royal Troon 17th 223 3.346
2. Masters Augusta National 4th 205 3.345
3. U.S. Open Congressional 2nd 235 3.335
4. MCI Harbour Town 17th 192 3.316
5. Las Vegas TPC at Summerlin 17th 196 3.294
192. Players TPC at Sawgrass 17th 141 2.952
218. Mercedes La Costa 11th 180 2.839
Disney Magnolia 3rd 160 2.839
220. Disney Palm 16th 172 2.805
221. Hope Indian Wells 6th 140 2.776
222. Hope Indian Ridge 17th 159 2.732

THIRD STRIKE

Although Laura Davies failed to win her fifth straight Standard
Register Ping, she's two steps up on 11 Tour players who won
back-to-back in the '90s: None three-peated. Ernie Els could win
his third straight Buick Classic in June. Results of other
attempted three-peats:

PLAYER EVENT, YEARS WON NEXT YEAR

Mark O'Meara, Pebble '89-90 Cut
Nick Price, Western '93-94 13th
Phil Mickelson, Tucson '95-96 13th
Corey Pavin, Los Angeles '94-95 17th
Loren Roberts, Bay Hill '94-95 Cut
Nick Faldo, Masters '89-90 12th
Davis Love III, MCI '91-92 Cut
Payne Stewart, MCI '89-90 T-4th
David Frost, Quad City '92-93 T-3rd
Tim Simpson, Disney '89-90 63rd

LENGTH COUNTS

Mission Hills, site of this week's Nabisco Dinah Shore, is the
longest course on the LPGA tour. Here are the longest and
shortest tracks on the three major U.S. tours.

COURSE (EVENT) YARDS

PGA average 6,994
Castle Pines (International) 7,559
Indian Wells (Hope) 6,478

LPGA average 6,290
Mission Hills (Dinah) 6,460
Corning (Corning) 6,062

Senior average 6,811
Park Meadows (Franklin Quest) 7,169
Loch Lloyd (St. Luke's) 6,539

THE NUMBER

122
Combined ages of Charles Coody and Dale Douglass, the first team
to win the regular and Legendary (60-and-over) divisions at the
Legends of Golf.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)