Pro makes hole-in-one on player 17 (!), part of historic run
Aaron Rai was asked how he would describe the moment. He laughed. How could he not?
Then, with an NBC camera on his face, he found the best word.
Perfect. And for about half an hour on Saturday he almost made it, over one of the toughest final stretches in golf. The Englishman shagged the par 5 16th at TPC Sawgrass. He birded the par-4 finisher during the third round of the Players Championship. And they jammed an ace. On the legendary, island-green, par-3 17th, Rai’s ball fell for a one.
He is the 10th player since 1997 to have ace 17.
No player in tournament history has finished 4th, 1st and 3rd.
He started 16th with tied 17th place. He will start Sunday’s final lap fourth, five strokes behind leader Scottie Scheffler.
“Yeah, it was amazing,” Rai said on NBC. “The atmosphere around this event, even in the last few days, was one of the best atmospheres I have ever competed in. And I improved today.
“Obviously a great finish on 16, 17, 18. I was doing a lot of pars before that and it felt like the round was kind of moving steadily but wasn’t really moving anywhere. And then I made a great birdie on the 16th and you saw what happened on the 17th and then you were really proud of how we finished there on the 18th because after a moment like that it can be challenging to collect myself and play the hole well what have we done.
“So yes, very happy with how we finished there.”
Well said again. Let’s start with 17 and the shot they will feature in the highlight video. It played 122 yards, flag forward. Rai hit Gap Wedge. Remarkably, he just bought a house in the Ponte Vedra Beach area and played Sawgrass a lot, but all this intelligence told him was to take his three and move on.
“Really for those front pins – we had front right Thursday and obviously front left today,” Rai said. “The plan was to just aim for the center of the green and the wind was coming from the right. It was mainly from the right today. So a shot that hits the center of the green and falls off the wind will always turn back toward the pin. So it felt like a sure shot where I play with the widest margin but also offers an opportunity to get close.
“That was pretty much my plan, to get both front pegs really center and just have him rotate back to front center. So there is always a bit of luck involved in getting a shot like that, but yes, it was a good shot too.”
In the air, his ball moved slightly from right to left, heading toward the center of the drop above the hole. It fell off the front pin about 15. It turned back. It rolled left to right.
It fell. Rai raised his left arm, then his right.
Jason Timmis, Rai’s caddy, edged towards his player, jumped into a hug and the two spun 360 degrees.
Beer was spilled and noise was made.
“It was a bit blurry,” Rai said. “I saw it go in and then I looked to the left to almost see if it was real and I almost saw the crowd’s hands in the air.
“The second after that I looked to the right at my caddy and he came running towards me. So it happened very quickly, but now that I’m talking about it and remembering some of these images, it feels very alive. So I couldn’t quite believe it happened, but very, very special. Very special. Something I will always remember.”
Then there were 18. That was probably better.
Rai took driver to center, iron at 4ft, putt, birdie, from a height almost unmatched.
“Yeah, the walk probably 17-18 I thought was crucial just to really try to calm down and get very grounded in the present moment,” he said. “On the 18 tee shot I felt pretty clear and pretty calm in my process which was great.”
Of course there is more here.
On Sunday he will be fighting for one of the richest purses in golf history – $4.5 million for the winner, $25 million total.
With his first players.
With no PGA Tour wins on his ledger.
How are we feeling Aaron?
“Being part of that,” he said on NBC, “playing in the Players, having the chance to compete on Sunday is great so right now I’m just grateful for that.”
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https://golf.com/news/insane-aaron-rai-hole-in-one-players-17th-historic/ Pro makes hole-in-one on player 17 (!), part of historic run