Tiger on top after Garcia meltdown
TIGER WOODS had the final say where it really counted, on the Stadium Course at Sawgrass after a weekend at The Players Championship in which he and Spanish rival Sergio Garcia fired a stream of verbal barbs at each other.
In the end, Garcia would be undone as much by another of his nemeses, the par three 17th hole, where he hit two balls into the water on his way to the nightmare quadruple-bogey seven which handed Woods his 78th PGA Tour win on a plate. The Spaniard had just drawn level with Woods on 13-under courtesy of a birdie at 16.
Garcia's meltdown continued when he hit his drive into the water at the last where he finished with a double-bogey six to for a seven-under-par total of 281 in a tie for eighth, the same mark as among others, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood.
Certainly, Tiger's fourth victory in just seven events in the US this season has helped restore the aura of invincibility which used surround the Tiger prior to his shocking fall from grace in November 2009.
The character he showed as he faced-down a Sunday afternoon crisis of his own after a potentially fatal double-bogey six at 14 was reminiscent of memories Tiger in his pomp early in the new millennium, when he registered his only previous win at Sawgrass in 2001.
Leading by two on the tee at 14, Tiger hooked his tee shot into the water and minutes later found himself tied at the top on 12-under with veteran craftsman Jeff Maggert (49), Garcia and hugely impressive PGA Tour rookie David Lingmerth (25) from Sweden.
Cracks seemed to be growing in the World No 1's facade as he short-sided himself to the left of 15, but he brilliantly saved par there and made a critical birdie at 16 on his way to grinding a final-round 70, which would leave him two ahead of Kevin Streelman, Maggert and Lingmerth at the day's end.
Maggert's bid to become the oldest winner at The Players expired when he hit his tee shot into the water on the way to a double-bogey at 17, while a bogey at the last cost Lingmerth his chance of outright second place having given everything to try to hole a raking putt for birdie that would have forced a play-off.
If Tiger and Sergio set sparks flying with their war of words over the weekend, McIlroy wowed the massive galleries with a fabulous fireworks display down the stretch.
McIlroy shook himself free of the lethargy which ensnared him for much of the weekend with a beautiful birdie at 13 ... then followed up with a glorious hat-trick at 15, 16 and 17.
Sadly, the 24-year-old was too far out of touch for this spectacular finish to his final round 70 to threaten the leaders for the US Tour's richest and most prestigious prize.
Sadly, Padraig Harrington brought a tournament which held so much promise last Thursday to a disappointing conclusion.
After rebounding from a mazy-crazy start to his first round, which included an eagle three at the second and a double-bogey five at the third, Harrington's opening 68 suggested he'd found a firm ally in that new belly putter.
Yet all such thoughts would prove fanciful as the Dubliner plummeted into a share of second-last place with Ben Curtis on seven-over after rounds of 76, 75 and another 76 yesterday, in which Harrington hit just 10 greens in regulation and piled-up 33 putts.
Earlier the bad blood between Garcia and Woods escalated with the Spaniard expressing relief that he did not have to partner the world No 1 again after Saturday's controversy.
His comments ensured there will be no healing the rift any time soon.
In fact, Woods could even be justified in complaining to the PGA Tour about Garcia's criticisms, although winning in such a mentally strong fashion as Garcia imploded probably sent out a stronger message.
"I'm not going to lie," Garcia said. "He's not my favourite guy to play with. He's not the nicest guy on tour."
"It's good for both of us (not to play together in round four). We don't enjoy each other's company.
"You don't have to be a rocket engineer to figure that out."
Still, this dispute added spice to a fascinating final round, with the final word emphatically went to Tiger.