Woods, Mickelson & Famous 'Island Green' 17th Headline The Players Championship

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Quail Hollow champion Rory McIlroy and defending champion Henrik Stenson headline the deepest field in golf as 27 of the world's top 30 players will challenge TPC Sawgrass and its iconic "Island Green" par-3, 17th hole in hopes of winning The Players Championship live on NBC Sports, Saturday and Sunday, 2-7 p.m. ET, with limited commercial interruption.

Dan Patrick makes his debut as event host for NBC Sports' 23rd year broadcasting The Players. Host Dan Hicks and analyst Johnny Miller anchor coverage from the 18th-hole tower. Hicks and Miller are joined by tower reporters Gary Koch (17th hole), Brad Faxon, and Peter Jacobsen; on-course reporters Roger Maltbie, Mark Rolfing and Dottie Pepper; interviewer/essayist Jimmy Roberts and Golf World's Tim Rosaforte. 
 
NBC Sports today conducted a conference call with Hicks, Miller, Maltbie, Koch and longtime golf producer Tommy Roy to preview its PLAYERS coverage. Following are highlights:
 
ROY ON The Players: "This is a hugely important event to The PGA TOUR and to The Players, and it's played on an extraordinarily unique golf course."
 
MILLER: "The most exciting finish in all of golf without a doubt."
 
HICKS: "It's a golf course that is so hard to predict what is going to happen especially in those last three holes. The finish rivals any place in the world. The ebb and flow and the drama that can happen on 16, 17 and 18 are unmatched."
 
KOCH ON 17: "Visual intimidation is certainly one of the design characteristics that Pete Dye incorporated into the TPC Sawgrass and I can't think of a better example than the 17th hole. 137-yard Par 3. I it were surrounded by grass and bunkers, players would probably miss the green maybe one out of every 50 times but you surround it by water and all of a sudden it becomes a different story."
 
ROY: "This is the kind of weekend that you like to be a part of. It's why you get into this television business."
 
MILLER ON RORY MCILROY: "He's the guy to beat."
 
MILLER ON TIGER WOODS AND PHIL MICKELSON: "If you look historically at the guys that do win here, Tiger and Phil, have to throttle way down with their games. If I were caddying for Tiger on the first tee, I'd probably break the driver and just say ‘let's go play.' Phil, when he won was really throttling down with that baby cut and playing very conservative."
 
HICKS ON MICKELSON: "Phil's always been the most popular and he's gotten even more popular."
 
MILLER ON MICKELSON: "Phil is unpredictable but he's got a lot of mojo and he's got a chance to take over No. 1 in the world with a win and Tiger not being in the top five."
 
HICKS ON MICKELSON POSSIBLY BEING NO. 1 IN THE WORLD: "Its mind boggling that he hasn't occupied that top spot... A lot of times we get accused of building up these rankings. I think they're fun because it gives the fans a chance to categorize these guys, and if you hear The Players say it's not important to them I think it's a bunch of hogwash."
 
MILLER ON WOODS STRUGGLES AT QUAIL HOLLOW: "His game is…as interesting [to the public] as if he were playing real well. It doesn't hurt to have Tiger in the scenario."
 
MILLER ON WOODS' PERFORMANCE AT PEBBLE BEACH IN 2000: "This might be a little harsh but I really believe he needs to, every night, watch the U.S. Open in the year 2000 in Pebble and just copy that swing and forget the [Hank] Haney stuff. That was the best golf anybody has every played in history…He was so on top of his game and everything was such a green light. Physically, tempo-wise, command of shots, driving 70 percent of the fairway, putting off the charts. As Roger would say, ‘It wasn't a fair fight.'"
 
MALTBIE ON WOODS' PERFORMANCE AT PEBBLE BEACH IN 2000: "The most impressive performance of championship golf on a great test that I've ever seen. I think it was hard to swing a golf club better than he was swinging it back in that time frame."
 
ROY ON PRODUCITION: "We'll have our 7,000-frame-per-second super duper slow mo to get some of those eye popping shots that we get as players try to extricate themselves from some of the places that you can end up on this golf course. We'll have ProTracer which tracks the golf ball as it leaves the tee and leaves a trail as players are trying to hit a right-to-left shot or left to right. We'll have our PinPoint technology for putts. We will not overuse that. We will only use it on putts that have a significant amount of break or have to traverse significant undulations in the greens. There are some pretty wacky putts out here and it's quite effective."
 
NBC SPORTS ‘BY THE NUMBERS' AT THE PLAYERS:
 
1                      Blimp
8                      Production Trucks
42                    Cameras
203                  On-site staff
1,260,000            Feet of fiber cable
 
17th Hole Facts and Figures (Courtesy PGA TOUR/NBC Sports)
 
The famed "Island Green" was designed to ensure dramatic finishes by not allowing the leaders to play defensively to protect a lead. It generally requires players to hit between a 7-iron and a pitching wedge.
 
nbc's coverage of no. 17
 
·        NBC utilizes eight HD cameras on No. 17, including a microscopic lens embedded in the lip of the tiny front bunker.
 
·        NBC will use two manned cameras placed on the 17th hole. A camera operator is lifted by a crane 150 feet into the air above the trees from right of the 16th fairway where his camera has a clear view of 16, 17 and 18. Another camera operator is ferried to the island right of the 17th green where he is marooned for approximately eight hours to get reactions from the 17th tee and operate the super-slow-motion camera.
 
water torture
·        Approximately 120,000 balls are hit in the water at 17 during the course of a year, an average of just less than three balls per player based on the average of 44,000 rounds played per year.
 
·        Divers enter the water 4 times a year to retrieve balls.
 
HOLES IN ONE
·        Six holes-in-one have been made at The Players: Brad Fabel, 1986, first round; Brian Claar, 1991, third round; Fred Couples, 1997, fourth round; Joey Sindelar, 1999, first round; Paul Azinger, 2000, third round; and Miguel Angel Jimenez, 2002, first round.
 
17th Hole Lore
·        Of the 28 winners of The Players, only two have made a bogey on the 17th hole on Sunday, Steve Elkington in 1991 and Fred Funk in 2005. Of these winners, 14 have made par, nine have made birdie and two have made bogey.
 
·        Bob Tway posted a 12 in the third round of the 2005 PLAYERS, with winds blowing 25-30 mph. Tway's tee shot flew the green, as did his second shot. His third and fourth shots hit on the front of the green and spun back in the water. His fifth attempt found the green, he three-putted and totaled a 12. He went from four strokes out of the lead at 7-under par to 13 behind.
 
·        Angelo Spagnolo, a 31-year-old grocery store manager from Fayette City, Pa., posted a 66 on June 19, 1985, in "America's Worst Avid Golfer" contest. Spagnolo hit 27 balls in the water from the tee box and drop area. Rules officials finally directed him to putt around the hazard and down the narrow path that leads to the green.
 
·        Phil Mickelson, Heath Slocum and Shigeki Maruyama hold the record for most career tee shots in the water with six. Billy Mayfair, Bob Estes and Jim Furyk have sank their tee shots five times.

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