The longest walk in golf
A 100-yard walk that can feel like 100 years
Tiger Woods walks from the 16th green to the 17th tee during THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass. (Olivier Douliery/PGA TOUR)
It’s arguably the most nerve-wracking, nail-biting, anger-inducing hole in all of golf.
When the best golfers in the world descend upon Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida every May, they know that the 17th hole is waiting for them. Some players will admit that it’s in the back of their mind, some will outright deny they think about it until they’re on the tee box. But there’s no denying that the walk from the 16th green around the lake to the 17th tee is one of the most intimidating walks between any two holes on the PGA TOUR.
When players finish the 16th hole and begin the roughly 100-yard walk to the 17th tee, the thoughts begin to swim through their minds. There's plenty of distractions to keep their mind off the challenge that awaits. Fans line the ropes to their left and water lines their right side, leaving a 5-yard stretch of grass for the players to walk with their thoughts. The buzz of the crowd intensifies as they walk around the lake.
"It's not that hard. But because of that trek, your anxiety has time to build to DEFCON One. It's one of the great walks in golf," wrote Paul Goydos about the walk to the 17th tee in a Sports Illustrated tournament preview.
It's a walk that can stir up negative thoughts, and seems to perpetuate with each step that players take as they get closer to the 17th tee.
It's definitely in your mind, where the tee is, what the wind is doing. Everybody has already looked over there. There's definitely a little apprehension walking over there.
Stewart Cink | six-time PGA TOUR winner
The 17th hole at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass has given frustrating moments to even the best professionals to ever play the game. For amateur golfers that play the Stadium, it can sometimes be more about pride than about the number on their scorecard at the end of the round.
TPC Sawgrass Superintendent Fred Klauk said for some amateurs, it’s about being able to say they hit the green.
"I rode up behind the tee one day and watched a man pull out a dozen new Titleists and promptly hit every one of them in the water. He didn't give it a second thought," Klauk said.
Approximately 150,000 golf balls find their way into the water at the 17th hole annually.
MARK WILSON, two-time winner in 2011
"As you come around the corner, after you hit the second shot on 16, you can watch players on 17 green. And I want to see as many shots as I can beforehand and even putts or whatever. I'm always watching what's going on. If you see a pattern, two guys hit over the green in the water, you say 'Oh, maybe the wind is tricky.' I'm always paying attention to what's going on in front of me. It's a long walk. It's a neat walk. The fans are there. They've created a really cool stadium atmosphere there."
BRANDT SNEDEKER, 2012 FedExCup champion and eight-time TOUR winner
"I wish it was a lot shorter. It's very nerve-wracking. You're thinking about the shot the whole time. It's a very daunting shot. It looks easy on Tuesday and Wednesday, but it's hard on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There's no way to fake it in there."
JIM FURYK, 2010 FedExCup champ and Ponte Vedra Beach resident
"I'm looking at the crowd saying, 'Look at all the people that came to watch the car wreck.' You just get to feel the buzz and the people and they're having a cocktail and they're waiting to see you hit it in the water. I'm focused on where is the pin, where do I want to land the ball, what number am I going to hit it, and trying to take the periphery out of play and just hit a good, solid golf shot. But that walk kind of just makes me chuckle, because you can hear it. You can hear the buzz and you know what they're looking for."
Players will once again get the chance to conquer the Stadium, and their own thoughts, as they take the longest walk in golf this May at THE PLAYERS Championship.