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First big test for golfers coming up this weekend |

First big test for golfers coming up this weekend

| Tuesday, March 22, 2005 12:00 a.m

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The PGA Tour’s first big test of 2005 is next up, as the best field of the young season gathers in the northeast corner of Florida for the Players Championship.

The Stadium Course at the TPC at Sawgrass has a history of providing plenty of excitement and drama and, with the game’s elite players performing at their best, it could be quite a show.

A few notable facts to keep in mind as you watch the tournament Thursday through Sunday:

  • Adam Scott returns looking to do what no other player has done in the history of The Players Championship: successfully defend his title. His victory in the Players didn’t come easy, as the 24-year-old Australian converted a clutch 10-foot bogey putt on the 72nd hole to close out a 1-stroke victory over Padraig Harrington.

    = It’s been feast or famine for Tiger Woods. He’s a former champion, but also has put up some relatively ugly numbers.

    Tiger Woods first-round 3-over-par 75 last year marked his fourth consecutive round over par, having posted three consecutive over-par rounds in Rounds 2-4 the previous week at the Bay Hill Invitational. To put his four straight over-par rounds in perspective, Woods posted only four over-par scores in 76 rounds over the entire 2000 season.

    He finished at Bay Hill on Sunday with rounds of 74 and 72, hardly the kind of scores that would give him momentum heading into this week.

  • The weather is a big factor in this event. The last two years have been great, but 2002 wasn’t quite so good.

    And the numbers of golf balls to find the water on the island green 17th hole reflected the conditions: 2004: 30; 2003: 29; 2002: 75.

  • Jay Haas will make his 28th start at the Players Championship this week, tied for the most appearances with Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw. Haas has six top-10s, including four conducted at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass (1986, 1996, 2003 and 2004).

    At the age of 50 last year, Haas posted his second consecutive top-10, finishing tied for sixth. The oldest player to make the cut at the Players Championship is Julius Boros, who made the cut in 1975 at the age of 55 years, five months, and 21 days.

  • ESPN and NBC will provide extensive coverage of the tournament. Thursday and Friday, ESPN will be on the air from Sawgrass from noon to 6 p.m. On Saturday, NBC will show action from 2-6 p.m. and Sunday, the tournament will be televised from 1:30-6:30 p.m.

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