Tway digs a deep hole on the treacherous 17th

The bottom fell out of Bob Tway's game when he shot a record 12 on the 17th hole, which ate up much of the field.

Published March 29, 2005

PONTE VEDRA BEACH - There were white caps and white knuckles. The only thing missing was a small craft advisory.

Such were the conditions Monday at one of the most photographed holes in golf, the often benign, sometimes brutal, but never boring par-3 17th at Sawgrass.

A total of 51 balls found the water surrounding the island green Monday during the completion of the final two rounds of the Players Championship.

Four were deposited there by Bob Tway, who set a record by making a 12. Tway, who was 7 under par at the time during the third round, dropped from a tie for 10th to 70th. He finished tied for 56th, 15 shots behind winner Fred Funk.

"I was playing great in the tournament, and all of a sudden, I'm dead last," said Tway, 45, the 1986 PGA Championship winner who has eight tour titles but whose 12 led to 80. "The consequences of that hole are a lot more than any other hole. It's a shame that it happened. To play that well for so long ... "

The 12 was the highest score recorded at the hole, breaking the record 11 set by Robert Gamez in 1990.

"At least I was in the record books for something," said Gamez, who hit one in the water there Monday afternoon.

Funk made bogey after three-putting from the back of the green. But at least his ball was dry.

"It's such a hard hole," Funk said. "You can hit a good shot and end up in the water."

Amazingly, the hole was quite easy during the first two rounds when just 16 balls found the water. There were 26 balls in the water for the third round alone, then another 28 in the final round.

Strong winds changed everything, with gusts up to 40 mph.

The hole played to a third-round average of 3.578, tying it with the par-4 18th for the hardest on the course. What makes that statistic more remarkable is that several scores posted on 17 occurred Sunday when the third round began and when it was calm and wet.

In the fourth round, it was 3.780, second hardest to the 18th. It was the hardest the 17th has played since the first round of the 1984 tournament.

Things got so bad, players were waiting in line at the drop area.

"You've got to be committed to your shot and hopefully time the gusts right," said Tiger Woods, who dunked a shot during the fourth round. "I've always said 17 is a great hole if it was No. 8, not No. 17, because I don't think a hole like that should decide a tournament.

"With the conditions like today, a good shot may not be on land, and that's the unfortunate thing about the 17th. It could cost you the entire tournament."

During the third round, the hole was playing 131 yards. (It played 143 in the fourth round.) Tway hit an 8-iron that went over the green and into the water. From there, he went to the drop area, which was 77 yards. His third shot with a wedge went long and left into the water; the next, his fifth, hit on the green and spun back into the water; the next, his seventh, again hit the green and spun back. Finally, he got his ninth shot onto the green and three-putted for 12.

Others had troubles too. Phil Mickelson hit two into the water and made 7. Tag Ridings and Lee Westwood each dropped two into the water. During the fourth round, Steve Jones, Frank Lickliter, Sergio Garcia and Shigeki Maruyama each knocked in two.