March 17 (Reuters) - Another chapter to the rich history of the 17th hole at the Players Championship was written on Sunday when two players in contention sank monster birdie putts within minutes of each other during the final round in Ponte Vedra Beach.
The island-green par-three at the TPC Sawgrass course in Florida has been the scene of much high drama over the years, and the thousands who congregated around the hole on Sunday were not disappointed.
First to fire them up was Eddie Pepperell, the ever-quotable Englishman whose game is almost as impressive as his dry sense of humour.
His tee shot stopped near the front of the green, 50-foot from the hole which was cut in its traditional Sunday position on the far right.
Pepperell’s rollercoaster putt climbed a slope, broke to the left and plunged downhill. As it neared the hole the ball broke hard to the right, before toppling in.
“I just figured it was going to be a tap-in,” he told reporters.
“I was kind of relieved I didn’t have to face a three-footer in front of all those people, and then obviously when it went in, what can I say, it was pretty awesome.
The effort lifted Pepperell to 14-under-par, which at the time looked to have given him a shot at winning but ultimately was only good enough for a share of third two shots behind champion Rory McIlroy.
The drama at the 17th was not over yet, however, as Jhonattan Vegas was in the next group to approach the hole.
The Venezuelan’s tee shot barely cleared the water and his ball stopped, unpromisingly for his birdie chances, some 70 feet from the hole.
Undeterred, he banged it home to join Pepperell at 14-under with the longest putt ever made at the hole, according to the PGA Tour.
“Absolutely mind blowing,” said Vegas, who also shared third place. “I mean, it never crossed my mind that I was going to make such a long putt on such a phenomenal hole.
“That’s kind of what you play golf for, to be in those kind of situations, with that crowd, it just doesn’t get any better ... something I’ll remember forever.” (Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Nick Mulvenney)