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Ryan Fox achieves unprecedented feat with rare hole-in-one on iconic TPC Sawgrass 17th hole

By Jack Bantock, CNN

(CNN) — Over the last 50 years, only a few golfers have ever bagged a hole-in-one at The Players Championship. On Thursday, New Zealand’s Ryan Fox joined that select band.

It had been a somewhat muted start for the world No. 44 at TPC Sawgrass. Yet after going one-over par through the opening six holes of his first round at ‘the fifth major’ on Thursday, the world No.44 followed up an eagle with an ace at the Stadium Course’s iconic par-three 17th hole to rocket to three-under in the blink of an eye.

A perfect tee shot clinched Fox’s first ever hole-in-one on the PGA Tour, and the first of this year’s tournament.

“It’s such an iconic hole, and to have that many people there to witness it is pretty cool,” Fox told reporters after carding a three-under 69 for the round.

“You get up there and most of the crowd probably either wants you to make a one or hit it in the water, so I’m glad to be on the right side of it in that respect.”

The effort sees the 37-year-old join a group of just 13 other golfers to have conquered the island green in one shot.

And after a stunning approach shot – just shy of 180 yards to within a few feet of the cup – at the par-five 16th hole had set up another eagle, Fox’s subsequent ace made him the first player in the tournament’s 50-year history to make back-to-back eagles on any two holes.

It continues a prolific recent run for hole-in-ones at the 17th. After just three from over 7,400 tee shots between 2000 and 2016 – and none between 2003 and 2015 – there have now been eight aces on the hole across the last nine editions of the event.

Last year there was a record three aces courtesy of Hayden Buckley, Aaron Rai and Alex Smalley before Scottie Scheffler cruised to a five stroke victory.

A bogey at the 18th saw Fox – who had started his round from the 10th – make the turn at two-under par. A four-time winner on the DP World (European) Tour, Fox is chasing a first victory on the PGA Tour at the circuit’s flagship event.

This year’s champion will claim a $4.5 million cut of a $25 million prize purse – the largest of any regular season-PGA Tour event, including last year’s majors.

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