When you walk off the 18th green in the second round 17 shots shy of the cut line, you rarely expect to see a bank of reporters waiting to get your thoughts.

Unless of course you are Tiger Woods.

In just his third year on tour and making his second start at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in 2011, Marc Leishman finished 36 holes six shots behind the next best (worst?) player to complete two rounds. The assembled media went to him believing that the 2009 Rookie of the Year must have been injury-afflicted; Leishman’s explanation was a far simpler one.

“I just had to tell them I played bad,” Leishman explained ahead of this week’s Players Championship in Florida.

Such is the nature of Pete Dye’s layout designed to tantalise spectators and torture its combatants that the slightest miscalculation in the course of a golf swing can lead to utter disaster.

Kiwi Michael Campbell owns the record for the highest 18-hole score at TPC Sawgrass, shooting 89 in the first round of the 2003 tournament; two years later ‘Cambo’ was the US Open champion.

Joking that the only other time he has shot two rounds in the 80s was as a 12-year-old playing comps at his home club in Warrnambool, Leishman insists he is a far different player than the one who shot 80-81 seven years ago. He has won three times on the US PGA Tour since – including twice last year – and is adamant that he carries no mental scars from that TPC torment of 2011.

“Since then I’ve had a top-10 and a couple of decent finishes there, so no mental hurdles,” said the 34-year-old, who enters the tournament ranked 16th in the world.

“I feel like a very different player now to what I was in 2011. I feel like a completely different player, stronger mentally and with better tools now than what I had then. Yes, it can happen, but hopefully it doesn’t happen again this year.”

Regularly ranked among the toughest courses on the US Tour each year, TPC Sawgrass played at an average of 1.291 strokes over par last year as Si Woo Kim supplanted Adam Scott as the tournament’s youngest ever winner. Small mistakes can have disastrous consequences from the tee all the way to the green.

“The Players is probably one of the hardest tournament we play all year, to be honest,” Leishman said. “If you play well you can make a lot of birdies and if you don’t play well it just punishes you. If something is not quite on in your game it really punishes you pretty severely.

“It’s one of the hardest tournaments to win in that respect. You’ve got to hit draws, you’ve got to hit fades, you need to be hitting it straight, you need to be putting well, your short game needs to be sharp. It’s a pretty punishing course and I’ve learnt that the hard way unfortunately.

“I’ve had a few weeks off to prepare and hoping I can get down there and play well.”

Adam Scott will be the first of six Aussies to tee off early on Friday morning, Australian time, alongside fellow Players champs Kim and Martin Kaymer. Cameron Smith and Rod Pampling are paired together along with Argentine Emiliano Grillo, while Geoff Ogilvy has been paired for the first two rounds with Whee Kim and J.B. Holmes.

Leishman has an afternoon tee time alongside Brendan Steele and Grayson Murray. Wells Fargo champion Jason Day is in a marquee group along with fellow former Players and Major champions in Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia.

This is the last Players Championship to be played in May. From next year, the tournament returns to March, when it was played until the move to May in 2007.

Aussies @ The Players

In the field: Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith, Adam Scott, Rod Pampling, Geoff Ogilvy.

Past winners: Steve Elkington (1991 and 1997), Greg Norman (1994), Adam Scott (2004), Jason Day (2016, above).

Shark’s attack: Greg Norman’s win in 1994 set records that have held up 24 years later. His first-round 63 has been matched by only three other players and his 24-under total for the week saw him set records for the low 36, 54 and 72-hole scores.

Big birds: No Aussie has ever made an ace at the Players although Peter Lonard made an albatross at the par-5 second hole in 2007 (driver, 5-iron from 209 metres).

Parry’s pair: Craig Parry is the only Aussie to make two eagles in one round at the Players since 1982, and he did it twice in three years (Holes 11 and 16, Rd 3, 2004; and holes 2 and 16, Rd 2, 2006)

Fox Sports (Ch 507) TV times: Friday (3am-11am), Saturday (3am-11am), Sunday (4am-11am), Monday (4am-11am).