The 17th hole at Sawgrass’s 18 most iconic moments - Part 1

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It might be less than 130 yards, but the legendary Island Green hole at Sawgrass has staged some of the most famous moments in golf. Mark Flanagan counts down the most iconic 18.
Posted on
March 2, 2023
Mark Flanagan in
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

18) Paul Azinger holes in one in 2000

This was a brilliant ace-inger from the 2008 Ryder Cup captain in round three.

With the pin pretty central, Zing hits the perfect 9 iron, the ball landing 10 feet short and rolling straight into the middle.


17) Fred Couples holes in one in 1997

The final round flag position at 17 tests the nerve of even the best player performing right at the top of their game. Throw in gusty conditions and history tells us it is almost the best card wrecker in golf.

Not so for Couples in 1997, who pitches the ball in the perfect Sunday spot, the ball meandering its way down and to the right after landing 20 feet left of the pin.

The ball rolls right into the centre of the cup with perfect pace and the ever-popular American laps up the adulation from those standing just a few yards behind him.


16) Kevin Na and Tiger Woods putting out in 2019

One of the many criticisms of modern golf is the lack of characters and lighter moments. Those lucky enough to grow up watching Trevino, Wadkins, Zoeller, Seve, Couples, Daly et al were blessed in that golf was entertaining on more than one level.

However Kevin Na is certainly not quite like other golfers and his penchant for reaching into the hole just moments after the ball drops in was wonderfully mimicked by Tiger Woods at Sawgrass. Both men embrace as they walk off the green, their grins as wide as the 17th green.


15) Scott Gump blows it in 1999

Look away now if you are a fan of the second-most famous Gump in American society.

The journeyman pro found himself at the top of the leaderboard in 1999 and one sweet swing at 17 would give him a chance of winning. Unfortunately for Gump, the ball bounded through the green and into the water. His double bogey was particularly poignant as he missed out by two shots, David Duval carrying off the title for the only time.


14) Brian Claar manages the first televised hole in one in 1991

The most recent and first televised hole-in-ones are almost identical in the way they are achieved. Last year Shane Lowry spun one back into the hole, 31 years after unheralded American Brian Claar first managed it.

The celebrations, however, are very different. Claar looks almost apologetic as his ball drops in.

His best finish in a Major was fifth at the 1989 Open but his efforts at Sawgrass in 1991 ensured he has his own place in golfing history.

The first actual ace at 17 in The Players came from Brad Fabel in 1986.


13) Fred Couples’ long birdie putt in 1996

In 1996 Couples won by four shots from Colin Montgomerie and Tommy Tolles.

His closing 64 remains one of the great Sawgrass rounds and what happened at 17 typified the kind of day he was having.

The 1984 Players champion had a downhiller from 25 feet but he judged the putt to perfection and the two all-but secured victory.


Part 2, Part 3


Other articles in the 18 Club Series:
Those pretty little swings
Augusta’s holes ranked from 1 to 18
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About Mark Flanagan

Mark Flanagan is editor of Golf Today having spent 25 years as a sports journalist. He has edited three other golf magazines and can often be found missing putts from inside gimme range.

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