From ‘amphibious’ to ‘Zinger,’ here are the reasons to be excited about the Tour’s signature tournament

May 9, 2012

A stands for amphibious. Since the Tour started keeping track, no one has hit his tee shot into the water on the island 17th hole more than Aaron Baddeley and Heath Slocum, who have splashed down seven times apiece.

B stands for Bubba, as in Watson, who is taking the week off to be with …

Caleb, Bubba and wife Angie's newly adopted son.

D is for double dip, which was what 2005 Players Champion Fred Funk did when he won the Insperity Championship at the Tournament Course at TPC Woodlands on Sunday. Funk won on that same course at the PGA Tour's '92 Shell Houston Open, and so he becomes the first player since Tom Watson (1980 British Open, 2007 Senior British at Muirfield) to prevail at the same course on both tours.

E is for Ernie Els, whose results since the Transitions in March have left little to be desired: T5, T4, T12, MC, P2 (second in a playoff). He's missed the cut in two of his last three Players starts, but finished in the top 10 in 2008 and '06.

F is for Flu-Fred Couples, who was in the field by virtue of his win at the Constellation Senior Players Championship, WD'd earlier this week.

G is for "Go time," Rickie Fowler's tweet of choice before every round.

H is for Hunter Mahan, who has led the FedEx Cup points list for six straight weeks, and whose five Tour wins ties injured Dustin Johnson for most victories by a player in his 20s. Mahan's best finish at Sawgrass: T6, last year.

International players have won seven of the last 10 Players Championships.

J is for Jitters. Caddies insist they don't get nervous while doing their job. Trying to hit 17, with everyone watching, on Wednesday? That's a different story.

K is for K.J. Choi, who beat David Toms on the first playoff hole last year to become the first Asian-born winner in the 38-year history of the tournament.

L is for lame. "I had a few issues going on physically there," Tiger Woods said Tuesday of his WD at last year's Players, the second-straight year he scratched with an injury at TPC Sawgrass. "I was wondering whether I should have played, and because this is a big event I tried to tee it up, and it didn't work out."

M is for money-$1.71 million to the winner.

N is for Northern Ireland. Third-round leader Graeme McDowell shot 79 to finish T33 at the Players last year. Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut in his only two Players starts, returns after a one-year absence.

O is for Oosthuizen, Louis. The Masters runner-up, who missed the cut by a mile in his only Players start last year, will go off the first tee at 8:29 a.m. ET Thursday with Jason Day and Ian Poulter.
Peter Hanson, who hung around for a T3 at the Masters last month, finished T19 in his only Players appearance, last year. (Dark-horse alert!)

Q is for Quiros, Alvaro, who in the absence of Bubba will most likely lead the field in driving distance.

R is for resident, as in Ponte Vedra's Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh, and Jacksonville Beach resident Matt Every. Bud Cauley grew up in the area.

S is for Steve Stricker, whose five wins since the start of 2010 is still tops on Tour. Bill Haas, Mahan, Justin Rose and Watson have four apiece.

T stands for two-point-six-two-eight-three (2.6283), George McNeill's sporty stroke average on 17. Johnson Wagner (2.7) and Martin Kaymer (2.75) aren't doing too badly on the hole, either.

U is for underdog. Coming off just the eighth missed cut of his professional career, Woods had better tighten up his game if he expects to keep up with the red-hot Fowler and two-time 2012 winner Mahan, starting at 8:39 a.m. Thursday.

V is for virgins-First-timers at this Players Championship include Sang-Moon Bae, Cauley, Graham DeLaet, Simon Dyson, Harris English, Every, David Hearn, John Huh, Sing Kang, J.J. Killeen, Colt Knost, Kyle Stanley, Scott Stallings, Michael Thompson and Cameron Tringale.

W is for Westwood, Lee, who had the 54-hole lead only to finish with a 74 for T4 at the 2010 Players.

X is what happens when duffers meet Pete Dye's signature railroad ties and water, as in, "Put me down for an X."

Y is for Y.E. Yang, whose victory over Woods at the 2009 PGA Championship remains surprising even today.

Z is for Zinger. Paul Azinger is the only player to birdie 17 all four rounds in a single Players, in 1987. He finished sixth.