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Golf-First four tee shots find water at famous TPC Sawgrass island-green 17th

Randy Mancini 5 Mar 12
PGA: THE PLAYERS Championship - First Round
Mar 11, 2022; Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA; Caddie Ricky Elliott (left) keeps the rain off Brooks Koepka as he studies a putt on the 11th green during the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

March 13, 2022

(Reuters) -The richest event in the sport was compelling viewing on Saturday as the golfing gods dished up some of the most punishing conditions in tournament history at the $20 million Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Cold winds gusting to 40 miles per hour (65 kph) tested the world’s best players at the treacherous TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course when the first round at the weather-plagued tournament resumed just after high noon.

With water lurking around every corner waiting to gobble errant or sometimes just plain unlucky shots, players knew it was going to be tough sledding. It did not take long to find out how tough.

You quickly knew it would no ordinary day in the office when the first four players to hit at the famous island-green par-three 17th — Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka and Collin Morikawa — all found the water with their tee shots.

That was as many balls in the water in a few minutes as during the entire tournament to that point.

“There’s nothing you can do. It was all gust-dependent,” said four-time major winner Koepka.

Olympic champion Schauffele’s eight-iron was so wide his ball was always more likely to hit one of the lake’s resident alligators than the green.

He bogeyed the hole and subsequently made a quadruple bogey at the par-four 18th, dropping from ninth to 90th in the space of two holes.

At least he negotiated the 18th better in his second round later in the day, with a triple bogey.

“I don’t know I’ve ever played two holes harder than that,” said one player, Keegan Bradley, a major winner at the 2011 PGA Championship.

Added Kevin Kisner: “It’s pure luck and it somewhat lost the integrity of the tournament in my opinion.

“When I got to 17 and 18 you could hardly stand up, much less hit a golf shot.”

Englishman Tommy Fleetwood and American Tom Hoge shared the first-round lead on six-under-par 66.

The second round will be completed on Sunday, when the wind will be blowing again, though not quite as strongly.

Officials have already announced a Monday finish.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)