With one swing, Aaron Rai made Players Championship history on what is arguably golf’s most iconic hole: TPC Sawgrass’ par-3 17th.
The 28-year-old Englishman, who moved to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, two weeks ago, followed up a birdie on the par-5 16th by acing the par-3 17th with his gap wedge from 122 yards.
“Insane. It’s such a blur,” Rai said after carding a 7-under 65 in the third round. “It felt great off the face, looked perfect in the air, and then when I saw it pitch and spin back, it looked like it had a great chance. I didn’t expect it to go in … to see it disappear and to see my caddie running at me almost full speed was pretty awesome.”
This year’s edition of The Players marks the first time that two players have aced No. 17. Hayden Buckley had a hole-in-one on the island green in Round 1.
Rai’s historic day, however, didn’t stop there.
Moments after his heroics on the penultimate hole, Rai hit a perfect tee shot on the par-4 closing hole that left him only 134 yards from the hole. Then, he nearly holed his approach for eagle, but settled for a birdie to become the first-ever player to card scores of 4-1-3 on the final three holes at TPC Sawgrass.
Did we mention it’s his Players debut?
His late stretch vaulted him up the leaderboard to T-3 at 9 under, four strokes off Min Woo Lee’s lead.
“Made a lot of pars just before that,” Rai said, “and it felt like the par was kind of moving steadily but not really moving anywhere. … Really proud of the way that we finished off there on 18, because it can be challenging after a moment like that to compose myself and play the hole well.”
Rai would love to prolong his heater through the final round for a come-from-behind victory, which would be his first on Tour. But even if he falls short of that feat, he still had a historic week in his new hometown.