THE PLAYERS Championship: The 17th at Sawgrass could cause havoc yet again

The water around the small island green swallowed balls galore in round one last year and will once again mess with players’ minds this week.

Anyone who has ever had a bet on the prestigious PLAYERS Championships at TPC Sawgrass knows the drill.

You've backed a player and all seems to be going well. But until he has negotiated the island green at 17, chickens can never be counted.

On the card, that 17th hole measures just 137 yards.

But being surrounded by water gives it a totally different dynamic. The wind can swirl, putting doubts in minds, and it's been the scene of several final-round disasters down the years.

Sergio Garcia famously dumped two balls in the water when tied for the lead with Tiger Woods in 2013.

Len Mattaice was just one back in 1998 but racked up an eight to ruin his chances of victory.

Davis Love, Scott Gump and Phil Blackmar have also seen their dreams shattered at TPC Sawgrass' devilish penultimate hole.

Last year, a record 35 balls found water in round one, with the green bouncy and the wind swirling.

Expect more high drama this time.

Rory McIlroy's take of the 17th

Rory was asked about the hole in Tuesday's press conference. He gave this detailed answer.

"I think one of the biggest things on 17 is just making sure you get the wind right. There's sort of a high camera tower sort of beside the 16th fairway there, and there's usually a flag up on top and you're looking at that to see where the wind is coming from and if it's switching or if you're getting any gusts from a different direction. That's something to really take into account.

"Sometimes it's nice not to be the first one on the tee just to see what your playing partners do. I'm not saying that that's a reason to not make birdie on 16, but sometimes it is nice to have a couple guys go ahead of you just to see what the ball is doing.

"You're not really trying to go for the pin on 17, you're just trying to hit it into the middle of the green, and you make four 3s on 17 and move on this week, you're going to gain strokes on the field.

"There's certainly a lot more birdie holes out there, and on this golf course you just have to pick and choose your battles, and 17 isn't one to go chasing the pin."

The wet count: how many balls in the water at 17?

2021 - 66

2019 - 45

2018 - 54

2017 - 69

2016 - 36

2015 - 45

2014 - 28

2013 - 44

2012 - 39

2011 - 40

(Note: the tournament was cancelled after 18 holes in 2020)

Weather forecast for TPC Sawgrass

This is the all-important weather forecast. Play starts at just before 6.45am on the first two days.

Thursday: The morning starters face 15mph winds and the chance of rain while there's a risk of t-storms in the afternoon although maybe a drop in wind to 10mph. Temps: 66-72

Friday: Heavy rain is forecast all day, with wind speeds around 10mph. Temps: 64

Saturday: The skies should clear in the afternoon after some morning rain but the big point to note is wind speeds. It could gust at 30mph, making the 17th a hugely difficult hole. Temperatures are also down: 55-60

Sunday: The finale should be played in sunny skies but 15mph winds. Temps struggling to get out of the 50s will make life difficult again at 17.

Conclusion

Weather forecasts can change obviously but the 17th could be a real test this year - especially on the weekend.

In two of the last four editions, we've seen over 65 balls in the water and it may reach those levels, or even worse, once more.

Sawgrass's penultimate hole could again have a big part to play in the final outcome.

READ MORE: Cracking Sawgrass: Leading contenders discuss how the date change alters THE PLAYERS Championship

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