Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Shane Bacon take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by writing firstname.lastname@example.org, or hit us on Twitter at @jaybusbee and @shanebacon. Today, we discuss the famous island green at TPC Sawgrass, and if the hole is as great as it looks, or too gimmicky for a huge stage like The Players. Swing away!
Bacon: Ahh, The Players Championship ... excuse me, I was just informed it's THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP. The fifth major, if we are asking the boys in Florida, is upon us, and with that will be exactly 11,426 shots of the 17th hole, arguably the most recognizable golf hole in the world. It's a short par-3 with no bailout, and it's a fun hole to watch, but is it just a gimmick or a real test of golf?
Busbee: No less an august personage than Tiger Woods himself called the 17th at Sawgrass "gimmicky," and if there's anyone who knows gimmicks, it's Tiger Woods. Why, I once heard a story about him in Vegas where he [rest of this line deleted in order to allow me to keep my job]. Wait, so where were we? Oh, right, THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP. Me, I have no problem with the hole. I think there ought to be MORE holes like it, matter of fact. I won't go so far as to say that there should be holes surrounded by lakes of fire or holes with angry badgers guarding the green, though I will say that would be awesome. But to the point: The hole itself is a gimmick, yes, but I'm just fine with it in and of itself. Should it be the 17th hole of a championship? Well, that's something else, isn't it?
Bacon: I'll say this ... no CHAMPIONSHIP (my caps lock is getting a workout today) should have a playoff decided on an island hole. That's one of the things that bothers me about The Players. The 16th is a great par-5, the 18th is an incredible test of golf, and arguably the hardest finishing hole on the entire tour, but to have them go to an island green to finish up a tournament they tout this much is, well, gimmicky. I'm with you that it would be fun to have more holes like this, that require a certain amount of skill and a TON of luck, but I'd like the 17th a lot more if it was, say, the eighth hole at TPC. I couldn't imagine being in the hunt at this tournament and NOT thinking about this par-3 for the entire back nine. Now, about that fire idea ...
Busbee: All right, so, with that in mind: What, to you, makes a good playoff hole? I'm thinking it should be something that gives you a chance at recovery, not an all-or-nothing shot. You go short or long or left or right on the 17th, and it's over. A playoff hole ought to give you more than one chance at an amazing save, unless of course you're playing Jonathan Byrd and he cans it off the tee. Your thoughts? Should a playoff hole be a par-4 or par-5, not a par-3?
Bacon: Well one thing I don't like is repeating the same playoff hole, like they did at the Zurich Classic a couple of weeks ago. I think a playoff should be a compilation of different holes with different types of shots, like a reachable par-5 followed by a tough par-3, but I like your idea that an all-or-nothing shot seems unfair to guys that are vying for possibly their first PGA Tour win. I think tough par-4s are always the way to go. Give a player a chance to make a birdie to win or a bogey to lose, and make it to where nobody really has that much more of an advantage off the tee.
Busbee: And badgers. Or, in honor of this week, BADGERS.
Now your thoughts ... do you like the 17th at Sawgrass, and what makes a perfect playoff hole?
- Tiger Woods