The strange thing about the 17th island green at the TPC is that it is one of the few forced carries from the forward tees of any hole designed by Pete Dye. The common theory that Pete is the meanest golf course architect on the planet is a bit of a conundrum.
To say that he isn’t at least a little bit mean spirited on a portion of every hole he has ever designed would be a lie. He gets great enjoyment from peoples pain. But, what many don’t know, is that he makes great efforts to get people around his golf courses and to finish a very enjoyable round, even to the point of low scores. I can count on one hand the number of holes he has built that require a force to carry over a hazard in front of a green.
The TPC 17th hole evolved from a number of design options that he not only thought of before construction began, but during shaping. The original objective of the course itself was to challenge the best players in the world at a very high-level. A par three that requires a wedge or nine iron is certainly not in that category of challenge, unless something unique or original is done to produce a completely different challenge. And from a small suggestion from his wife, encircle the green with water, the 17th was born. Watching Ricky Fowler birdie the hole five out of six times in route to a TPC championship a couple years ago was one of the most impressive feats of golf I have ever seen. He birdied it three times on Sunday including twice in the playoff.
I have attended the tournament and played it a number of times. Standing on the tee is sheer terror. Such an easy little shot became one of the toughest holes on the course and par is a fantastic score. To think that anyone has the guts to fire at the pin, no matter where it is on green, is ridiculous, let alone in a huge tournament.