2006: Island hopping

The perilous par-3 island 17th at TPC Sawgrass, listed somewhat skimpily at 137 yards and playing as short as 123 yards in the third round, took its usual toll at The Players.

It may look like a poodle, but it bites like a pit bull.

Forty-nine players dumped a total of 51 balls into the water from either the tee or the drop area over four rounds. Joey Sindelar and Steve Lowery hit two balls apiece into the drink in Round 3. The second-round total was listed at 16, though Daniel Chopra actually chipped a ball into the water from the fringe. On Sunday, “only” nine players found the water.

Bob Tway had problems at 17 yet again. Last year he made a 12 there, and he found water in making double bogey in each of his first two rounds last week. He shot

74-79 and missed the cut. Arron Oberholser, left, leading the tournament at one point, went 6-6 on the final two holes Saturday. The 17th also has buffaloed Phil Mickelson. Five of Lefty’s last six tee shots have ended with a splash.

Tom Lehman, who has competed at The Players each year since 1992, has never hit a tee shot in the water at 17.

In fact, when he three-putted for bogey in the third round, it marked only his fifth career bogey on the hole against 18 birdies.

TPC was destined for a date with a bulldozer this week, but when it re-emerges next spring, the 17th will be just the same, as nasty and gnarly as ever. When it comes to favorite holes on the PGA Tour, you won’t hear too many players ranking it No. 1.

Quipped one longtime veteran scribe, “That’s why this tournament never will be considered a major. That’s not a golf hole – it’s a carnival!”

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