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Garcia nearly wins Players despite hecklers, putting woes

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Sergio Garcia knows what it’s like to win The Players Championship in extra holes. Now he also knows how it feels to be on the other end of overtime at TPC Sawgrass.

Garcia shot a final-round 68 to get into a three-hole aggregate playoff with Rickie Fowler and Kevin Kisner. While his two opponents both birdied the second extra hole, Garcia failed to record a birdie in the playoff and was eliminated before Fowler defeated Kisner on the fourth extra hole.

“I hit a lot of good shots today, I hit a lot of good putts. It’s a shame,” Garcia said. “But overall, it was another good week here at the Players, so I can’t be disappointed.”

Garcia emerged from a crowded leaderboard with three straight birdies on Nos. 4-6, building a two-shot lead at the turn. After a shoe-less approach shot from the cart path led to a bogey on No. 14, Garcia responded with birdies on two of his final three holes, including a 43-foot bomb on No. 17.

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Garcia struggled on the greens all week, changing both his putter and grip from round to round, but he needed only 27 putts in the final round.

“I don’t know, I just kind of felt a little bit better today,” he said. “Some days you feel better with the game, some days you don’t. But today was, it was good. It was a shame it was just a little too short.”

Garcia can add this week’s finish to his growing list of close calls on the Stadium Course. He also finished second in 2007, was third last year and held a share of the lead on the 71st tee before a T-8 finish in 2013. He also has a victory in 2008, when he beat Paul Goydos on the first hole of what was at the time a sudden-death playoff.

While he enjoyed the frenzied atmosphere of this year’s extra-hole finish, Garcia was forced to back off his tee shot on No. 17 in regulation because of comments from the gallery. The Spaniard said that he heard from the crowds “probably about three or four times on every hole since the 10th hole.”

“It was great for the most part,” Garcia said. “Obviously some guys there that don’t deserve to be here watching golf, but that’s what it is.”