When history looks back at the 2013 Players it will tell us about another of Tiger Woods’ incredible conquests – his 78th PGA Tour victory in 300 starts – but the real story of this Players belongs to Sergio Garcia.
One of golf’s all-time underachievers, Garcia lost this tournament more than Tiger won it. I say that well aware of what an outstanding display of shot-making Tiger put on in the Tour’s flagship tournament. I also know Sergio was “only” tied for the lead when he dunked two balls in the water at 17.
But easily the most eye-popping moments belonged to Sergio, who played the final two holes 6 over par in one of the greatest collapses in Tour history.
Unlike most collapses, I’m convinced this one had nothing to do with choking. Just the opposite, in fact, and there’s irony in that. No golfer poor-mouths as much as Sergio, who has publicly said such things as he doesn’t think he has the talent to win major championships. Clearly he has the physical talent, but many agree he doesn’t have the mental capability.
Getting back to his tee shots on the par-3, island green No. 17, Garcia took dead aim at the back right pin. For at least an hour before Garcia reached the hole nearly every tee shot came up well short of the pin. Obviously there was more wind than the players realized.
Garcia had to feel he was in control of the tournament. He was playing beautifully. He became tied for the lead when Tiger double bogeyed the 14th with a tee shot that looked as if it has been struck by a 20-handicapper. Garcia, playing behind Tiger, seemed determined to put a dagger in the heart of a rival he personally dislikes more than any other. He wasn’t about to play the more conservative shot to the middle of the green and depend on his putter.
In his defense, No. 17 had been kind to Sergio. It was on that hole where he won the ’08 Players. Everything about the shot looked good – the flight of the ball was just left of the pin --until the ball fell short of land.
Nothing after that mattered. Not the second tee shot in the water at 17 or the tee shot at 18 which also went for a swim.
Garcia’s over confidence – indeed, his misguided determination to slay the Tiger in dramatic fashion -- left him humbled again by Woods.
Tiger’s victory speech should have included a thank you to Garcia because Sergio handed this championship to his rival.
It made for a great show.
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