What We Learned: The Players Championship


Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the world of golf. This week, our writers weigh in on Tiger Woods' second-career victory at The Players Championship and the fascinating dynamic between Woods and Sergio Garcia.

The rivalry between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia that appeared imminent back in 1999 has never developed and never will. Well, not in the traditional sense, at least, with the two players trading haymakers on major championship stages throughout their careers. Since the 1999 PGA Championship, Woods’ career has soared while that of Garcia – perfectly acceptable on its own merits – has listlessly paled in comparison, his lifelong major title odometer still stuck on zero. And yet, following this weekend’s events, from the incident on the second hole on Saturday to the back-and-forth comments through the media to Tiger’s win in the wake of Sergio’s collapse, there is no more intriguing potential set of playing partners on the planet than the two of ‘em. 

Sure, I’d accept the chilly stares of Woods and Phil Mickelson or the buddy-buddy duo of Woods and Rory McIlroy, but if you’re asking for the one final twosome that I’d love to see at each of the year’s final three majors, it’s easily Woods and Garcia. Their chilly relationship is fascinating; their inability to mince words publicly is intoxicating. Pro wrestling fans pay good money for this type of drama – and it’s fake. (Whoops, sorry for the lack of a spoiler alert.) Tiger and Sergio will never become a rivalry, but that’s OK. It’s still more entertaining than any other combination of pairings. Let’s hope we’re treated to more icy glares and cursory comments again sometime in the very near future. – Jason Sobel

Apparently, we should get used to seeing the white flag flying on the PGA Tour again.

Don’t get me wrong, Tiger Woods looked really good again Sunday winning The Players, but the rest of the Tour is looking as if it is just going to go into surrender mode again. Yes, Woods was solid all week at The Players, and yet just as he did in his last victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, Woods made himself uncharacteristically vulnerable with the lead down the stretch. He opened the door to challengers. At Bay Hill, Rickie Fowler wasn’t ready to take advantage when Woods gave him an opening. Fowler plunked two balls in the water at the 70th hole in his surrender. At the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course Sunday, Sergio Garcia did one better. He showed he was not ready for the challenge, plunking three balls in the water, two at the 17th and one at the 18th.

Yes, Woods is gaining back his winning mojo, but for somebody who roots for drama, it’s disappointing to see yet another failure to step up to the tremendous challenge Woods presents. Are we on the verge of marveling at more Woods greatness as he resurrects his run at Nicklaus' record? Or is somebody going to step up to the challenges he presents? – Randall Mell

The Players Championship may never enjoy “fifth major” status, but there is no denying TPC Sawgrass’ ability to identify a worthy champion and ignite a gallery. With the help of more user-friendly hole locations on the back nine on Sunday, the Stadium Course delivered the key component of a memorable championship – two-way traffic. With four players tied for the lead with four holes to play, there were equal amounts of heroics (Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia at the 16th hole) and heartbreak (Garcia and Jeff Maggert at the 17th hole and David Lingmerth at the 14th) to qualify as a memorable championship – be it a major or otherwise. – Rex Hoggard

The 17th hole at the Stadium Course will continue to live in infamy.

Every year, players descend upon TPC Sawgrass for the PGA Tour’s flagship event, and the opinions often read like a predetermined script: some like its position on the course, others tolerate the hole but would rather see it elsewhere in the rotation of holes, and a chosen few would just as soon sink the island green to the bottom of the lake surrounding it.

Yet once again, the 137-yard hole played a pivotal role in determining the tournament’s outcome Sunday, as some of the game’s best players were vexed by a wedge shot to a relatively sprawling green. The penultimate hole crushed the hopes of Sergio Garcia, who won the title in 2008 on the very same hole, while also costing 49-year-old Jeff Maggert a shot at what would have been the biggest win of his career.

So while some in the field will continue to rue its very existence, the fact remains: hokey or not, fair or unfair … the 17th hole at Sawgrass isn’t going anywhere. Will Gray