PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – For a brief period Sunday afternoon, it appeared the golf gods would conspire for the ultimate cap to a week filled with contentious barbs: a playoff between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia for The Players Championship.
With two swings from Garcia, though, any thoughts of the Spaniard claiming his second Players title vanished quicker than they appeared.
Playing in the final pairing Sunday, Garcia took aim at the treacherous island green at No. 17, equipped with a share of the lead and images of winning this event five years earlier on the same hole. His tee shot found the water, however, and after again finding the hazard with his third shot, he was relegated to a quadruple bogey from which there was no return.
“I felt with a little bit of adrenaline and stuff, I didn’t want to shoot over the green with a wedge,” he said of his tee shot after the round. “I hit a good shot; unfortunately just hit it too soft.”
Playing alongside Garcia in the final round, David Lingmerth admitted afterwards that it was difficult to watch his playing competitor’s collapse on the penultimate hole.
“It was painful,” explained Lingmerth, who tied for second after an even-par 72 Sunday. “He hit a great shot in there, and then the next one was just as good if not better.
“My heart just dropped because he had been playing so good,” he added. “I felt bad for him.”
Effectively knocked out of contention, Garcia went on to double bogey the 18th hole after putting another tee shot into the water, this time into the lake lining the left side of the final fairway. After sharing the lead through 70 holes, the Spaniard fell into a tie for seventh, closing with a 4-over 76. After the round, he was quick to put his exploits at the 17th hole in perspective.
“That hole has been good to me for the most part,” said Garcia, who won a sudden-death playoff over Paul Goydos on the 17th to claim the 2008 Players Championship. “Today it wasn’t. That’s the way it is; that’s the kind of hole it is. You’ve got to love it for what it is.”