There’s never been a shortage of water at TPC Sawgrass. Everywhere you look, from the first tee to the last, there’s a hazard of H2O lurking somewhere. The sheer amount of aqua snaking around the Stadium Course, home to The Players Championship which gets underway today, would probably give Poseidon the heebie-jeebies.

It certainly kept good old Sandy Lyle on his toes when he scored a trailblazing victory in 1987 to become the first European to win this particular title. “I often look at a poster that I still have on a wall at home with my winning score of 14-under on it and wonder how the hell I got around that course in that score,” the Scot once reflected. “It is just relentless, with water everywhere.”

In last year’s showpiece, it almost got to the point where players were swapping their strokesaver for a fathometer as a series of biblical downpours caused the kind of logistical hassles Noah faced when he tried to load all sorts of beasts onto his floating zoo and led to the championship finishing on a Monday. Forget TPC Sawgrass. It was TP all-at-sea Sawgrass.

Here in 2023, amid the storm-tossed waters of the men’s game in its upper echelons, the PGA Tour’s flagship is poised to set sail again. There’s no defending champion, of course. Cameron Smith, who claimed a thrilling triumph a year ago on that manic Monday, has been indefinitely suspended from the PGA Tour after hopping on board LIV Golf’s cash-sodden boat.

In fact, this mutiny over the bounty means last year’s podium finishers – Smith, Anirban Lahiri and Paul Casey – are all missing this week and are just three of 31 LIV rebels who competed last season but are persona non grata in Ponte Vedra this time.

Smith, the reigning Open champion, actually lives just 10 minutes from Sawgrass and joked that he might walk about and watch as a spectator. “But I don’t think I could do any heckling,” he chuckled with a mischievous grin.

The history books suggest that Smith would’ve had a tough task defending his crown. From the event’s inception in 1974, there has never been a back-to-back champion while, since the permanent shift to the Stadium Course in 1982, just five players have won the title twice. Of that posse, only Steven Elkington, the winner in 1991 and 1997, didn’t wait over a decade to secure a second crown. Even Tiger’s two wins in this parish were 12 years apart.

Sawgrass has spawned a broad church of champions. The Stadium Course may not be everybody’s cup of tea -- JC Snead once suggested with a withering snort that it was “90 per cent horse manure, 10 per cent luck” – but it can grow on you.

In 2010, for instance, Rory McIlroy missed the cut for the third successive time. The reason? “I don’t like the golf course for a start,” he whimpered. Fast forward to 2019, though, and McIlroy was savouring a maiden Players Championship conquest and just a second in the contest by a golfer from the British Isles.

This week, McIlroy will be parrying and jousting for the world No.1 spot with Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler as the game’s big guns prepare to unleash their heavy artillery. There’s an eye-popping prize fund of $25m

on offer but, in these money-soaked times, who’s counting? We’ve already had three $20m elevated events on the PGA Tour this season. Fill your boots, boys. Again.

On the home front, meanwhile, Inverness exile and Jacksonville resident Russell Knox will be hoping to prosper again in what is effectively his own backyard.

A year ago, Knox was very much in the thick of it on the final day and eventually shared sixth.

The Scot, who reached a high

of No.18 in the world but is now 202nd, has not had a top-10 since and will tee-up today on the back

of three successive missed cuts on

the tour.

Glasgow’s Martin Laird, one place behind Knox on the global pecking order, finished second and fifth in The Players Championship in 2012 and 2013 but has missed the cut in five of his last seven outings

at Sawgrass.

Here’s hoping the tartan twosome don’t tread water this week. There’s plenty of it around, after all.