Oh well, there will be no Tiger Woods at The Players’ Championship. But there will be a Robert MacIntyre at Sawgrass.

Eager onlookers – or hysterical observers depending on your level of Tiger fever – had been on tenterhooks waiting to see if the lesser spotted Woods would commit to the PGA Tour’s $25 million flagship event by Friday’s 5pm deadline.

For some, the countdown was as nail-nibbling as watching a timer ticking away on a bomb in a Bond film as 007 sweated over which wire to cut in a bid to defuse it. Alas, all hopes went up in smoke as Woods’ name did not appear on the final entry list.

The 48-year-old, who withdrew from the Genesis Invitational a couple of weeks ago due to flu, had set a goal of competing once a month in 2024 as he aimed to ramp up his latest comeback from all manner of injuries and ailments.

It now looks likely, though, that we won’t see the Woods on the tees until April’s Masters. You can reset that timer and let the brow-mopping countdown begin again.

As for MacIntyre? Well, the Oban lefty’s name popped up in the field at the last minute and the PGA Tour rookie, who kick-started his new life on the other side of Atlantic with a morale-boosting sixth-place finish in Mexico recently, gets the opportunity to pit his wits against the best in the business.

Nine of the world’s top-10 are in the line-up for the 50th anniversary of The Players’ Championship. In fact, 18 of the world’s top-20 are there. And 48 of the top-50. But you all know why there are some glaring omissions.

Jon Rahm’s defection to LIV Golf means that the current world no 3 is persona non grata along with fellow defectors like Brooks Koepka, Tyrrell Hatton and the 2022 Players’ champion, Cameron Smith.

Golf’s civil war remains in the throes of an uneasy truce but the men’s game in its upper echelons continues to be so fractured, it should come with a splint.

Amid these choppy waters, it is probably fitting that golf returns to a venue that has so much H2O sloshing around, it could prompt a sighing lament from the ancient mariner. Water water everywhere? There is  no let up at the Stadium Course.

“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,” reflected Sandy Lyle, who blazed a trail at The Players' Championship back in 1987 when he became the first European golfer to triumph at Sawgrass. “It is just relentless, with water everywhere.”

Nearly 30 years later, another Scot would not fare as well. Russell Knox was inside the top-10 of the 2016 championship during round three but came an almighty cropper at the iconic, island green 17th.

His crippling nine at the teasing, tormenting par-3 may have led to him plummeting down the leaderboard but he soared in the popularity stakes for the cheery way in which he dealt with his unfolding calamity.

Knox plunged three balls into the lake – his second attempt at a tee-shot resulted in a shank – before trudging to the drop zone and eventually finding dry land.

“I’ve never shanked a pitching wedge off a tee before,” he recalled. “It was an epic fail.

"It’s a different story once you’ve hit two in a row in the water. The green felt like it was the size of a quarter. I should have gone to the drop zone after the first tee shot. I ended up making an awesome putt for a nine.”

Conquering the Stadium Course is no mean feat. Since The Players’ Championship took up permanent residency in this parish in 1982, nobody has claimed back-to-back titles.

Indeed, in its 50-year history, across all its various venues, not one player has successfully defended The Players’ Championship crown. The mighty Jack Nicklaus won three of the first five, but they were in alternate years.

Scottie Scheffler, the world No 1, is the latest player to give it a crack. "I think you haven't seen that many multi-winners at this place because it doesn't really suit any one style of play,” reasoned Scheffler, who won by five shots a year ago. “It's just a good test of golf."

It is  time for the world’s best – well, most of them – to be put to the test again.