Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Famed Hole Remains Place to Be for Wide Assortment of Golf Fans

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Famed Hole Remains Place to Be for Wide Assortment of Golf Fans

Article excerpt

PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- You can't go to Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower.

You can't go to New York without visiting the Statue of Liberty.

And you can't go to The Players Championship without visiting the 17th hole. And once you get there, you may not want to leave.

The island hole, famous for its unique design and ball-gobbling reputation, has become THE spot to be at The Players. Not only is it a chance to watch golfers finish on No. 16 and battle the wind at the 137-yard par-3, but it's also a chance to crowd-watch, socialize and -- if the weather cooperates -- work on your tan.

According to the marshals manning the hole, yesterday was a typical Saturday. The crowd, thin during the early morning, swelled to several thousand by mid-afternoon. It got even bigger depending on which group was passing through. Greg Norman, Fred Couples and Tiger Woods always bring bigger galleries.

So, too, did Fred Funk, who is always followed by his Funk's Punks fan club. And he got the Punks going yesterday after he did a quick two-step on the tee box after barely keeping his tee shot from bouncing off the back of the green.

The Punks roared, but it was nothing like the sound after Paul Azinger aced the hole eight groups later. The cheers continued throughout Azinger's walk to the cup, fueled partly by alcohol.

"The more they drink on Saturday and Sunday the rowdier they get up on that hill," said marshal Rosalie Scarborough, who has spent the past 12 years working the hole. "Sometimes it's almost uncontrollable."

The hill Scarborough was referring to is next to the 18th tee, and it was packed shoulder-to-shoulder. The crowd is mostly younger fans -- the older crowd tends to sit along the ropes closer to the hole and in the area between the 16th green and 17th tee -- and the preferred beverage isn't Diet Coke.

They can be loud, and it takes more than one marshal to cut the noise. …

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