GOLF-ISLAND-GREEN-FASCINATES-BUT-TIGER-WOULD:'Island green' fascinates but Tiger would move it
By Simon Evans
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - The "island green" 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass is one of the most recognisable in golf, but Tiger Woods would rather it not be part of the thrilling finale to the Players Championship.
The penultimate hole on the Stadium Course is hugely popular with spectators as, apart from a small path to the green, the putting surface is surrounded by water, offering little room for error and a heavy punishment for inaccuracy.
Forty tee shots found the water during last year's Players Championship, down sharply from the 93 balls that ended up in the lake in 2007.
But Woods, while a fan of the hole, believes its placement as the penultimate hole with little chance of recovery from a mistake, means it is in the wrong place on the course.
"I understand the premise behind it. It's dramatic. But I just think that as a par-three, I just don't think it should be that, as the 17th. Great eighth hole or maybe something early in the back nine but maybe I'm more of a traditionalist in that regard," Woods said ahead of Thursday's opening round.
"As a great finishing hole, I'm not in that opinion, but I think the collection of holes, 16th, 17th and 18th is the most dramatic that I think we play out here on tour."
Of the players in the field, nobody has hit their first tee shot in the water on No. 17 more than Aaron Baddeley and Heath Slocum - who both have found water on seven occasions - while Phil Mickelson has hit six tee shots in the water, according to tour statistics which began keeping track in 2002.
Woods's view on the hole might find some support from those who find a round ruined by a splash but most players seem to enjoy the challenge the hole provides.
"I kind of like that it's 17," said world number two Luke Donald, "If it was anywhere sooner in the round, it wouldn't be as famous. It wouldn't mean as much and it would not be as important. It's what makes this course so special is the last three holes, and 17 being one of them."
American Hunter Mahan thinks the issue of whether the hole is in the right spot misses the point.
"At the end of the day you've got to play 18 holes. Where they are is kind of irrelevant. You've just got to play them all well. It's one of those things it's not worth thinking about because they're not going to change the routing of that hole," said Mahan.
"It's a pretty neat finishing hole, because at the end of the day it's 140 yards and you can make some birdies and some bogeys, some kind of strange things can happen on it."
Paul Azinger, in 1987, is the only player to birdie the 17th in all four rounds of a single Players Championship.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Frank Pingue)