Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The 13-14-15 Stretch Often Decides a Champion

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The 13-14-15 Stretch Often Decides a Champion

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits

It's the Trap before the Gauntlet at The Players Championship.

Three holes on the back nine of the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course - the par-3 13th, the par-4 14th and the par-5 15th - form the most underrated stretch of holes on the course in terms of overall difficulty.

"Other than 17-18, to me it can be the hardest stretch of holes on the course," said two-time Players champion Davis Love III. "No. 13 is the hardest par-3 to get it close. Then there's two back-to-back par-4s with a lot of wind in play."

"Totally underrated," added Rocco Mediate. "No one talks about those holes because of the last two. But they're difficult holes, very good holes, and they're all beautiful holes."

There is no other combination of three holes in a row on the course in which the historical scoring averages are among the top-eight.

The field has never averaged under par at Nos. 14 and 15 in a Players, the only back-to-back par-4s on the course with that distinction. It's been done only once at No. 13, in 1987.

Nick Watney said all three holes have their own challenges, thanks in part to nature.

"For one thing, the wind seems to swirl a lot in that area of the course," he said of an area with huge trees. "It's tough to pick a club at No. 13. No. 14 can be tougher than No. 18 on some days and it just may be all the time. No. 15 is an awkward drive. Down the stretch, there are no easy shots on any of those holes."

Players Championship hopes have been dashed frequently at the 13-14-15 corridor. Vijay Singh hooked his tee shot into the water at No. 14 in 2001, and he wound up losing to Tiger Woods by one shot. Ben Crane had a chance in the 2009 Players before crucial bogeys at Nos. 13 and 14. David Duval's chances to win in 1999 were nearly derailed when he made back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 14 and 15.

Players winners have also made their moves at those holes in the final round. Henrik Stenson birdied Nos. 13 and 15 to spark his 2009 victory, and Garcia drained a 40-foot birdie putt at No. 14 in 2008 to help earn his playoff spot with Paul Goydos.

HOW THE HOLES HAVE PLAYED IN 30 YEARS

HOLE************No. 13

STROKE AVERAGE******3.129

HISTORICAL RANK***8th

EAGLES*********10

BIRDIES*********1,786

PARS************8,419

BOGEYS*********2,301

DOUBLE-BOGEYS******405

TRIPLE-BOGEYS+******121

HOLE************No. …

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