The beauty and challenge of Sawgrass’ island green

David Hearn of Canada, hits from the second tee during the final round of The Players championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass, Sunday, May 11, 2014 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Throughout the season, Canadian golf stars Adam Hadwin, David Hearn and Graham DeLaet will check in with to provide readers with candid insights as they compete on the PGA Tour.

I like to think I’m the type of player who does well when the score is only single digits under par. That’s probably why I’ve had success in difficult tournaments, like when the U.S. Open was at Merion or at the Players Championship, which is this week.

I tend to think my way around a course well. I’m the type of player who can hang around even if things aren’t going well. And over four days you’ll have one day where you aren’t feeling it. And how you play on those off-days are key around a course like the TPC at Sawgrass’ Stadium Course, where the Players Championship is held.

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Sawgrass is a great test. It asks you to hit exacting shots with every club in your bag—from wedge on the 17th hole to a two iron on the 8th hole. The par fours and fives provide a great mix, and when you play a course where strategy and a strong mental game are key, I like to think I have a good chance to be successful. I tend to think of myself as a player who does well on tough courses and it is nice to see the results back that up.

Of course Sawgrass is best known for its 17th hole, the island par three that everyone immediately recognizes. I think it is a fun hole—but depending on the conditions it can be terrifying considering it is only 130 yards long. I’ve hit for the cycle there—I’ve made birdies and bogeys. I’ve had shots land in the water, and frankly it would be pretty hard to play there with any regularity and not have one find a watery grave. The green is a tiny target and when they tuck the pins you don’t want to be too far away from them, so you have to be really careful with your yardage. Mistakes can happen—all too easily sometimes.

The hole’s difficulty is what makes the shots Rickie Fowler hit last year in regulation and the playoff truly amazing. Those are the kind of memories you take away from the Players. You remember the great shots the best players make under pressure.

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When you think of a great short, iconic par threes, you think of the 7th at Pebble and the 17th at Sawgrass—both short holes that prove you don’t need to have a long par three to make a great hole. From my perspective, I embrace the challenge.

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But there are some nuances that fans likely don’t recognize that are key to having success there. My caddy, Brent Everson, has a lot of experience at Sawgrass and has taught me a lot about the course. He’s from the St. Augustine area and has caddied for about 25 years. He told me that when you get to the 16th green you need to start considering the wind on the 17th hole. That’s the trickiest part — figuring out 17. There are so many grandstands around that you can’t get a good gauge of the wind and you want to have a handle on that before you get on the tee box. You’re trying to determine which way the wind is going so you really trust the shot you’re about to hit and commit to it.

When it comes to what shot you select, the wind is key to that. I’ve hit wedges into the hole, but they get affected by the wind the most given how much spin is on the ball. But I’ve hit 7-iron one year when it was cold and the wind was blowing in. That’s a little bit more frightening because you don’t have much room for error. It is a sinking feeling when it goes right over the pin and it bounces and disappears.

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With one swing you can make a birdie and put yourself in the mix, or you can make a double bogey and shoot yourself out of it. That’s the beauty of the tournament—so much can happen right at the end.

The Players Championship airs on Global TV Saturday, May 14 at 2 p.m. ET and Sunday, May 15 at 2 p.m. ET. Visit for more information.

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