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‘What a mess’: Wind makes island-green 17th at Sawgrass nearly unhittable

Brooks Koepka

He talked with his caddie and took practice swings for 40 seconds before finally stepping to his ball. He backed away. For another 30 seconds, he went over the shot with his caddie before re-addressing it. He backed away again. Finally, after another talk, he swung. 

And Collin Morikawa still hit into the drink. 

He’s arguably the best iron player going at the moment, but the 146-yard, par-3, island-green 17th at TPC Sawgrass and the conditions swirling around it after a three-day rainy deluge at the Players Championship reduced him to but a Saturday hack.

“Oh, boy, buckle your seat belts,” analyst Mark Wilson said on the PGA Tour Live broadcast. 

“What a mess,” announcer Brian Katrek said. 

Morikawa wasn’t alone. After the first round was delayed three times due to rain over Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the grouping of Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka were first up to 17 on Saturday, and all three hit into the water surrounding the green. Scheffler was long, and Schauffele and Koepka were short and right.

The issue? Wind and the hole itself. The storm had left behind 30 mph winds into players, and a choice. You could hit low and beat the breeze, but the green isn’t long — it’s about 25 yards from front to back. Or you could hit high. And dance with the wind. 

On Scheffler’s shot, he hit an 8-iron, which on a normal day, would be about 40 yards (!) too much for the hole.   

“Let’s face it, Xander Schauffele’s stock 8-iron probably from about a buck 80,” Wilson said on the broadcast. “So it’s all about hitting shots today into this wind.”

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The first threesome played the hole at four-over — Scheffler dropped behind the green and bogeyed; Schauffele hit from the drop zone and bogeyed; and Koepka double-bogeyed after taking a drop from the drop zone. Notably before his shot, Koepka handed his hat to his caddie, Ricky Elliott, so stiff the wind was.   

Morikawa followed. Finally, Rory McIlroy hit on, as did Justin Thomas. Over Thursday and Friday, only four players had hit tee shots into the water on 17. On Saturday, that number was matched on the first four swings. 

“Complete chaos out there,” Katrek said on the broadcast.  

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