JABONG! The treacherous last three holes

It’s already a week after The Players Championship but here I am still in the state of denial. Of disbelief. Of what ifs?
I must admit that I bet my marbles on Xander Schauffele to emerge victorious on this so called the fourth major of golf but unluckily lady luck frowned on him.

Xander is nervously clinging to The Players trophy with 5 holes to play and leading by two. All he need is to par all the remaining holes except Hole No 16, a par 5 which is a birdie mandatory.

Then it happened. He blinked and committed a mistake on Hole 14 for a bogey. It’s alright, you still lead by one over Scottie Scheffler who’s walking towards the tee box of Hole No.16 after routinely clearing Hole 15 with a par. Xander’s flight mate Wyndham Clark is two strokes down and himself not doing so well. Then the lightning struck again in the 15th when Xander, committed another bogey while Shefler made a birdie on the 16th. Scottie now leads the tourney with a two holes to go. Meanwhile Brian Harman silently made his move and move tor second spot while Xander and Clark now tied at third spot.

Three shots of what ifs

Three shots that could have made a difference that could have add more drama. The missed birdie putt of Xander at Hole 17, the punched shot of Harman at 18th which in all indication should have no spin after all and should have stopped on its way nearer to the hole and the missed putt of Wyndham Clark on final hole which was 75% inside the hole for birdie but as destiny would put it suddenly came out denying Clark the chance for a playoff. If any of those shots fall in the cup, a four man play off could have happened and just imagine the excitement reverberating once again in Hole 17.

In the end, Scottie raised the trophy thereby making history. Being the first to defend his title in TPC and solidify his grip on the title of being the World’s Number One golfer.

That’s how they say it, the locals. The three finishing holes will decide the winner. The Narrow Par 5 Hole No.16, the Island Green Par 3 Hole No 17 and the dogleg Par 4 Hole 18 with an intimidating lake lining up at the left.

Flashback

It was almost winter of 2018 when I went to this same location, The TPC Sawgrass in Pontevedra, Florida with my brother. Luckily we were able to book a guided tour of the dreaded holes, Holes 16,17 and 18. Our tour guide Raymond entertained us while on a ride on golf cart about all the stories involving the finishing three holes he witnessed as a volunteer during this annual tournament.

From the eagle putt of Vijay Singh using the toe of his putter at Hole No 16th, to the courageous Tee shot of Ricky Fowler on Hole 17th regulation and winning it in the playoffs and the number of balls that disappear at the lake on the last hole which broke the hearts of many contending players.

I still feel the sensation while walking on the hallowed fairways of the TPC Sawgrass. As I stood at the tee box of the Island Green Hole 17 I can’t help but imagine how those seasoned players felt like beginners once again while lining up their tee shots. The stadium like grand stand filled with spectators will surely make a golfer’s knees buckle as the crowd suddenly stopped in eerie silence when a player is about to make a shot. It’s either a roar of approval for a 130 yard shot making it to the green or a sigh of aaaahs when the ball finds the waters.

As we conclude our tour in the clubhouse, Raymond told us that we’re not so lucky because we just missed Jim Furyk, the team Captain of 2018 Ryder Cup who passed by unnoticed behind us on his way to the parking lot. I stop for a while, look at my brother and off we go sprinting to the parking lot. Lo and behold, Mr. 59 Jim Furyk is standing, loading his bag just beside our car.

He smiled, my brother held his camera and me held my golf cap with a sign pen.

Walking on the finishing holes of TPC Sawgrass is good enough to make my day. Walking on the same grass that the gods of golf walk is the nearest thing in going to a golf pilgrimage. Touching in the flesh and standing side by side in one of the gods is a bonus.

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