May 6, 2009 (Updated May 9, 2009) –When the question was asked, this writer thought that the response from the 'questionees' would be that of horror. The island 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass has long garnered the reputation as one of the nastiest holes in all of golf, and seems to be a dreaded experience that comes with playing in the PGA Tour's THE PLAYERS Championship that tees off this weekend. But then Marc Turnesa, champ of the 2008 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (pictured, in blue, with Timberlake), and Scott Piercy, a Las Vegas golfer, deflected the question about what the 17th hole is like with as much ease as making a one-foot putt for birdie. LIVE RESULTS.
"It's a fun hole," said Turnesa, who fired a 25-under par at Las Vegas' TPC Summerlin last fall to make the Timberlake event his first PGA Tour victory. "You have to hit a good shot there to finish off a good round, but everybody in the field has to play it. If there's not much wind out there it's not that big of a deal, but if that wind gets blowing and you are unsure of a club to hit, it can get difficult. But I think it's a fun hole and I am looking forward to playing it."
UPDATE; In his first two rounds, Piercy made pars on the 17th hole. He fired a 71 in the opening round and followed that with rounds of 72 and 74. He made another par during the third round. Turnesa made a par in his first round, but struggled to a 76. He fired a 75 in the second round and missed the cut but he did par the 17th again in his second round.
TPC Sawgrass was designed by the legendary Pete Dye, who also created the three Las Vegas golf courses at the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort. And the 17th hole has become a legend for being a place where dreams of winning have come to die. But Turnesa and Piercy both seem to think there isn't much to the hole, and will treat it just like the others. One note: they are both playing in THE PLAYERS Championship for the first time and they haven't stepped up to the 17th tee under the pressure of the moment.
"Well, it's about 140 yards …," Piercy said in a slightly bemused tone by phone from Florida prior to the tournament. "It has played down wind for the last couple days in practice, and I have hit a 9-iron and a big wedge into the middle of the green and two-putted. As far as the weekend, I try not to have many expectations heading into a tournament. You could say I want to shoot 10-under par but what if you shoot 20-under par? The old, dumb cliché is one shot at a time, but that's really the truth."
Las Vegas golfers can experience a bit of what playing the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass is like by teeing it up on the par 3, 15th hole of the Wolf course at the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort. This hole plays a bit longer than the original, but Dye has brought the island-green concept to the desert. Click now to view more details about Las Vegas' version of the 17th hole and to reserve your Las Vegas golf tee times at Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort. The resort is continually offering special Las Vegas golf deals and rates.
Turnesa has struggled in 2009–he had made only 3 of 13 cuts entering THE PLAYERS–and is coming off of a withdrawal at the Quail Hollow Championship last week that was caused by a neck injury. He feels pretty good about his game, but is still looking for the magic that allowed him to win big in Las Vegas. "It was awesome," Turnesa said about winning the Timberlake event. "Everybody came up to me and said 'You couldn't have picked a better tournament to win' because of Timberlake, and they were right."
Heading into THE PLAYERS, Piercy, who grew up in Las Vegas and led Bonanza to the 1996 State Championship, had made 8 of 12 cuts in his rookie season on the PGA Tour. In 2008, Piercy won two events on the Nationwide Tour and finished 9th on the money list to earn exempt status on the PGA Tour for 2009. His good friend and Las Vegas resident Darren Woolard has caddied for him this year, and Piercy is now playing for a family of five because his wife, Sara, is pregnant with the couple's third child.
Piercy said his game is pretty good but there is always something to practice. "Right now I am working on ball striking; it's been a bit clanky the last few weeks, but you need to strike it well on this course or it could make you look silly," said Piercy. "But it’s always constant maintenance, whether it's ball striking, putting, short game, its just a matter of how much maintenance it needs." Among the other PGA Tour stars with strong ties to Las Vegas golf competing in THE PLAYERS are Dean Wilson, Ryan Moore, Chad Campbell, Adam Scott (past champion), Tommy Armour III, and Charley Hoffman.