Tour Loves No. 17 Drama; despite Criticism, the Players Playoff Format Isn't Going to Change

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Byline: GARRY SMITS

Critics of the par-3 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course might as well go argue about the BCS.

After the drama of last week's Players Championship, the PGA Tour is not about to change anything about the hole and its Island Green, from where it sits on the course rotation to its designation as the first playoff hole in the event of a tie in regulation.

Sergio Garcia's victory over Paul Goydos in sudden death came when Goydos hit his tee shot into the water at No. 17, and Garcia knocked his tee shot on the green and made a safe and winning par. The sequence of events came after a breezy week in which there were 65 balls hit into the water at No. 17 (the third-highest number since the Shot Link era of statistical records began in 2003).

A combination of wind and the firmness of the green contributed to most of the balls hit into the water. Mistakes in club selection led to balls hit over the green, or in front of it, and balls landing close to back hole placements sometimes bounced or rolled over.

Goydos' playoff shot and Ernie Els' shot in the first round were examples of players who hit short of the green. Stephen Ames and Matt Kuchar were two examples of players who appeared to hit safe shots, only to watch in dismay as their balls bounced over.

"They ought to blow it up," an angry Els said to The Golf Channel moments after his first round.

Ames accosted a Tour player-relations official after a tee shot at No. 17 that was inches from bouncing into the hole for an ace, yet missed and went into the water. The 2006 Players champion went on a brief, profane tirade on the course setup and stomped off -- then went on to finish fifth in the tournament.

However, the man who hit his first and last tee shots at No. 17 into the water, said it would be "sour grapes" to complain about the two bogeys that cost him The Players.

"It gets somebody every year," Goydos said. "That's what it was designed to do."

And criticism came from a new front this year -- using the 17th hole as the first hole of sudden death. The only other playoff in tournament history was in 1987, when Sandy Lyle defeated Jeff Sluman in three extra holes. …