Each week for the remainder of the golf season we will be rolling out a mailbag, with any and all questions invited from readers and fans around the world. Have a good question you want answered? Hit me up on Twitter at @shanebacon or e-mail me at email@example.com and we will try to get to it in the coming weeks. Here we go ...
@shanebacon is the 17th at Sawgrass the most unique shot in golf? Overrated? Underrated?
— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) May 6, 2014
Bacon: Each year when it's Players Championship week I feel like a lot of the focus is on the 17th hole. Is it a good hole? Should it be this close to the finish? How is this fair in the wind?
My point on the 17th always stays the same; it's a really, really fun hole that people remember because of the unique island theme and much like the Waste Management Open, it's one week a year that these guys have to sweat out a late par-3 where a bad shot means your chances are doomed.
I do wish the 17th was earlier in the round personally, but golf needs drama and this hole is it. I was lucky enough to play the hole earlier this year and I will say, standing on that tee is a very, very unique experience. My golf mind always first looks at a good place to miss it, so if the water is right I know that my miss is left. The 17th gives you none of that, and forces you to step up to your golf ball, commit to a golf swing and execute it. If you don't, you'll be dropping and hitting that same shot again, so you better know what your plan is when you are about to take it back or your round could be done in a hurry.
As for overrated or underrated, I think the hole is perfectly rated. It gets the deserved hype, it always brings drama and we see great shots, and horrible shots, on this hole each year.
@shanebacon Over/Under on number of water balls on 17 this year? 44 in 2013, I believe.
— Chad Coleman (@HashtagChad) May 6, 2014
Bacon: Looking at the past few years, you have to take the under on this one, especially when you look at the forecast for the week (winds don't look to be a huge factor this week up until Sunday).
In '13 there were 44 in the water on 17, 39 in '12 and 40 in '11. You have to go back to 2008 to find a year where more were in the drink than last year, so I'll take the under on the 44 and go with something right around 37 in the water.
Speaking of the 17th, when I got to play it this year, I was lucky enough to get a round with Ken Lee from Bunker's Paradise. We got to the 17th and Lee had been playing fine, but Sawgrass will steal golf balls out of your bag fairly quickly if you aren't careful, and Lee had exactly three balls left when we arrived at the iconic par-3.
Apparently legend has it that if you drop two balls out of a sleeve in the water before you hit your tee shot it is supposed to bring you good luck, and Ken did that, leaving him one golf ball left in his entire bag to play the island green. Sure enough, he hit it on the green, calmly rolled in the putt, and has a birdie story much better than most that play TPC Sawgrass.
Bacon: For some reason, when Sergio Garcia gets to TPC Sawgrass it's like his entire mindset changes. The guy has won here before back in '08, and has made the cut for the last 10 years at the Players.
Sergio isn't exactly the kind of guy that can forget failure, but as long as he pushes that missed cut at Augusta out of the back of his mind and remembers how well he was playing before that, he should be just fine this week.
Picking him to win means I'm playing against the rest of the field, but I definitely see another top-10 for Sergio and think he will be around for much of the weekend as he has so many times in the past.
@shanebacon Most difficult hole for players: 17th at TPC or 12th at Augusta ?
— Charles Mathon (@charlesmathon_) May 6, 2014
Bacon: It's a really interesting question, and one I batted around for a while. I initially thought it was a slam-dunk with No. 12 at Augusta National, and then I started thinking about how many rounds are lost on the 17th, the second to last hole in your round, and I wavered.
I think if you asked the guys on tour, they would say the 12th at Augusta National is tougher, just because of all the uncertainty that comes with that hole. The gusts, the change in wind, and the little things about the hole that just seem to screw with a golfer's mind.
The interesting thing about both holes is for a par-3, it isn't much more than a wedge or 9-iron. That is what designers need to take into account when building par-3s. They don't have to be 240 yards to be tough, just well designed enough to get people thinking and to cause some confusion and uncertainty in their mind as they stand over their golf ball.
I'll go with the 17th at Sawgrass, simply because any missed golf shot means you're dropping for three, and because you are so deep into your round that you know getting through 17 is essential because you don't have anymore holes to really make up a bad shot. If you make a double-bogey on No. 12 at Augusta, you still have two par-5s and a couple of friendly holes left to hopefully make a couple of birdies.
@shanebacon Do you think most of the guys could break 80 playing opposite handed?
— EM (@eriksean85) May 6, 2014
Bacon: This question comes on the heels of Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson all playing the 17th hole at Sawgrass wrong-handed, and apparently Fowler hit it pretty tight with his lefty golf swing.
That said, no, I don't think most of the guys can break 80. Obviously there are guys out there that are incredibly athletic and can hit it both ways, but to get it around in 80, especially around the greens, would be tough for most pros, no matter how talented they are.