'Island' still defines event

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. --- The Players Championship has all the ingredients of the fifth biggest tournament in golf.

Tiger Woods practices his putting on the island 17th green on Wednesday. When Woods won The Players Championship in 2001, he made a 60-foot birdie putt there in the third round.   Associated Press
Associated Press
Tiger Woods practices his putting on the island 17th green on Wednesday. When Woods won The Players Championship in 2001, he made a 60-foot birdie putt there in the third round.

It has the largest purse of any tournament at $9.5 million, with the winner getting nearly as much as Arnold Palmer earned in his PGA Tour career.

From top to bottom, it has the strongest field of the year. The list of winners in 30 years at the TPC Sawgrass includes Greg Norman, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

But to all fans, and most players, mention the tournament and the first thing that comes to mind is an island.

The Players Championship begins today, and there will be a steady stream of traffic through the gates and toward the 17th hole, with an island green that makes it one of the most infamous holes in the world.

By the weekend, it turns into the area's biggest sideshow this side of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party when Florida and Georgia play football.

"I think our pension is funded by beers sold on 17," Paul Goydos said.

The signature hole on the TPC Sawgrass measures only 137 yards on the scorecard and is surrounded by water, an idea that Alice Dye drew up on the back of a cocktail napkin.

"It's do-or-die, and I think spectators love that," Luke Donald said. "Most of the other holes are pretty regular holes that you see week in and week out, but 17 is unique."

"I think 17, any other day, wouldn't be too difficult because of the short iron," Masters Tournament champion Charl Schwartzel said. "But there's such a big hype about it, and you get so many people sitting around it that I think that starts becoming the big, big factor around there."

The PGA Tour will offer live streaming on its Web site at the 17th, and asked several players their strategy on the hole. Lucas Glover spoke for most when he said, "Hit it where I can hit it again."

The island green is so much a part of the tournament that NBC Sports is devoting 11 cameras to the17th hole, which includes two periscope cams out of the water that can turn 360 degrees.

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