Finally. The drought is over. It only took 6,300 tee shots, but the famed par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass yielded its first hole-in-one in 14 years at The Players Championship on Friday.
Will Wilcox made a rare ace with a pitching wedge from 147 yards in the second round. And he did it with a yellow ball.
I’m not sure which was better — the shot or the celebration. I guess we’ll go with the former since the last time we saw a hole-in-one on 17 was in the first round of the 2002 Players when Miguel Angel Jimenez achieved the rare feat.
Wilcox joins Jimenez, Paul Azinger (2000), Joey Sindelar (1999), Fred Couples (1997), Brian Claar (1991) and Brad Fabel (1986) as the only players to ace the island green hole in the history of the tournament.
Wilcox is playing pretty well this week, too. He’s two-under through 13 holes for the day and six-under for the championship.
While play was suspended due to inclement weather in the area, Wilcox sat down and reflected on his magical ace.
“Pretty surreal stuff.”
Will Wilcox takes us through the first ace on No. 17 since 2002. ⛳️ https://t.co/1PDkfihW5s
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 13, 2016
Drinks on Wilcox tonight! Actually, with this weather delay, we should just all head over to the clubhouse and start a tab under Wilcox’s name…or he could send a keg or two over to the media center. Just saying.
UPDATE: And minutes after writing the above, this happens. Well played and thanks, Will!
UPDATE 2: Wilcox has always been a delight to talk with in my experience and that certainly wasn’t any different after he posted a one-under 71. He’s five-under for the tournament, which means he’ll safely make the cut in his first start at the Players.
Naturally, he was asked about his exuberant celebration and he had a fantastic answer.
“If you don’t freak out in that moment — I’ve seen so many Tour players make hole-in-ones and hole shots, and they’re just like nothing, (and it’s) like what’s wrong with you,” said Wilcox. “So especially in that situation, I get pumped up.
“I came in 15th in New Orleans and I acted like I just won the Masters, and if I come in 38th here, then I’m going to party on Sunday night. I just enjoy everything that happens to me out here, and this will be another, like, whatever, feather in the cap.”
PREACH! As I said earlier, it was an epic celebration — definitely one of the best, if not the best, that I’ve seen on Tour. I always find it weird when a player makes an ace and then just awkwardly high-fives those in his group. It’s like, get a personality, dude! Well, I guess the 17th at Sawgrass inspires an extra joyous reaction.
Wilcox also revealed that he actually chunked the wedge shot a little.
“It was just bizarre,” he said. “I can’t believe it went in. I needed to fly it up that slope and I chunked it a little bit, too, so it flew that perfect number but then had that little bit of run on it because if I would have caught that well, then it would have nipped a little bit more. So yeah, it just fell in perfectly.”
Initially, he was debating between hitting a wedge or a 9-iron, but luckily, one of his playing partners Cameron Tringale went first, and when WIlcox saw that he had a wedge in his hands, he knew that was the club.
“I was thinking 9(-iron), but luckily Cam hit first, he hit wedge, and we (hit it) a similar distance,” said Wilcox. “When I saw him hit wedge, it was an easy decision to pull that out because I know I can hit it as far as him.”
So I guess Tringale gets a bit of the credit!
It goes without saying that Wilcox wasn’t expecting to make an ace on 17, especially when he saw the pin placement. In fact, he actually thought yesterday’s pin would yield a hole-in-one.
“That front pin yesterday, I looked at the guys in my group, because it looked like everybody was — so I was like, there’s going to be a hole-in-one on that pin,” he said. “The back left pin is a total beast. For it to happen on that pin for me is crazy because I was so nervous I could barely stand.
“You saw that follow-through. It was like really abbreviated, and it was just a pure just desperation hold. Yeah, for it to go in was crazy because I was really, really nervous.”
Today’s ace was Wilcox’s 13th in his life. Yes, 13! I guess it’s his lucky number. After all, it is Friday, the 13th.
WIlcox also stopped by the media center for a beer and chat, which was really cool of him. I actually asked him if it was his idea during the weather delay to send beer to the media center because earlier I was talking with one skeptic scribe, who assumed the Tour did it on Wilcox’s behalf. However, Wilcox said he did indeed think of us lowly writers on his own, as he’s seen that’s what others have done in similar situations. I wish I could share more of the fun chit-chat, but when there’s beer in hand, I generally assume it’s off the record.
A few more scenes from the scoring area…