Last Garcia shot is perfect to ‘tee’
By: By MARK LONG, AP Sports Writer
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Sergio Garcia summed up his day, his week, maybe even his career, with one small gesture Sunday.
Garcia lagged a 45-foot putt from the fringe to three feet for par on the famed 17th at TPC Sawgrass, then kissed his putter.
The stick that tormented him so many times before, including earlier in the week and most notably at last year’s British Open, became his trusted ally in the final round at The Players Championship.
The 28-year-old Spaniard rolled in one critical putt after another on a blustery day, none bigger than the seven-footer for par on No. 18 that forced a playoff against Paul Goydos, and clinched the next best thing to a major with a near-perfect tee shot in sudden death.
“It feels good,” Garcia said. “These were tough greens to putt on this week, as quick as they were with the wind and everything.
“It’s definitely getting there, but there’s still room for improvement, which is good.”
Goydos, who started the day with a one-shot lead, could have won it in regulation. But he pushed his tee shot on No. 18 in the right rough, hacked out to about 50 yards in front of the green, chunked a pitching wedge to 15 feet, missed the par putt and created the first playoff in 21 years at The Players.
It didn’t last long.
Goydos, hitting first, watched helplessly as a gust caused his wedge to balloon into the cloudy skies and land with a splash a few feet in front of the green.
“The hole was designed to do exactly what it did. It got me instead of somebody else,” Goydos said.
Garcia, with no margin for error, followed with a wedge that landed on the green, caught a slope and stopped 4 feet away. He missed the birdie putt, but it didn’t matter.
“I played good golf, and as people have found out, that doesn’t mean win unfortunately,” Goydos said. “You can’t control it. No defense. I couldn’t tackle the little guy. … You can’t kneecap him. You just have to accept the guy beat you and move on.”
Garcia and Goydos each finished at 5-under 283.
Garcia, whose seven PGA Tour victories are the most by any player under age 30, earned $1.71 million from the richest purse in golf and solidified himself as a major contender with the U.S. Open a month away.
“The goal is to keep getting better, and the only thing this tells me is to keep working hard and to believe in myself,” Garcia said. “And when I do believe in myself, I think there’s not a lot of guys out there that can beat me.
“I’m looking forward to keep going. I don’t want to get stuck here.”
The consolation for Goydos was $1.026 million for second, more than he earned for winning the Sony Open last year. And he felt no shame in losing to Garcia, whom he raved about earlier in the week as one of the top talents in the game.
After the first round Thursday, Goydos said something that turned out to be prophetic.
“Once he gets his putter going, he’s going to win a lot,” Goydos said. “This guy’s going to win 80 times.”
Goydos may have been exaggerating, but he’s serious about his belief that Garcia will win several majors.
“He’s right there on the precipice of great things,” Goydos said.
Jeff Quinney had a chance to join the playoff. He went bogey-free for 10 holes in gusts that topped 40 mph at times, but failed to save par from a bunker behind the 18th green and had to settle for a 70 and third place alone, one shot behind.
Garcia never needed a victory so badly.
The best player without a major was in the longest victory drought of his career, stretching over three years and 53 starts on the PGA Tour.
He had a 10-foot putt to win the British Open at Carnoustie last summer, then lost in a playoff to Padraig Harrington. No club troubled him more than the putter, and this week was no exception.
Garcia took 124 putts in regulation, 18 more than Goydos.
But he came up big in the final round, rolling in a collection of par putts that kept him in the hunt, birdie putts that challenged Goydos and then the one on the 18th that made this victory possible.
“I actually had a little grin when I was going to the ball because I felt so calm,” Garcia said. “I don’t know if this is going to be enough or not, but I’m going to make this putt, and I’m at least going to make Paul work a little bit. I was so happy to see that putt go in.”