PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia are part of a three-way tie for the lead at The Players Championship, both going after golf's richest prize without the pleasure of being in the same group for the final round at the TPC Sawgrass.
“It's probably good for both of us,'' Garcia said, referring to the rift that began when Garcia felt Woods instigated crowd noise as the Spaniard was playing a shot.
Woods finally made another birdie and finished off the third round Sunday morning with a 1-under 71. Garcia had two bogeys, a great chip to make birdie and another superb chip to save par on the 18th hole for a 72.
David Lingmerth, a 25-year-old rookie from Sweden who had a two-shot lead when play resumed, made bogey from the trees on the 18th hole for a 3-under 69.
They were at 11-under 205, one shot clear of Henrik Stenson of Sweden (71), Ryan Palmer and Casey Wittenberg, who birdied his last three holes for a 70. Wittenberg only played the 18th hole Sunday morning to finish his round.
So much for that drama of Woods and Garcia paired again at Sawgrass.
Even though Woods tapped in for par before Garcia made his 4-foot par putt, Garcia joined Lingmerth in the final group. When two players in the same pairing are tied after the round, the player who was first to hit when the full round began is listed first. That put Garcia, who had a one-shot lead going into the third round, in the final group.
Woods figured they would play together in threesomes because of the rain delay – it will be twosomes, instead – and he said it didn't matter who he played with on Sunday afternoon.
“I'm tied for the lead, so I'm right there,'' he said.
Woods is dangerous from that spot. His record on the PGA Tour is 52-4 when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round.
Public tension is rare in golf, though it was on full display when Garcia sat before a television camera during a storm delay on Saturday. The incident took root on the par-5 second hole when Garcia played his second shot from the fairway and hit it well right into trouble, leading to bogey. He heard a burst of cheers from the fans gathered around Woods in the trees, reacting to Woods taking out a 5-wood to play a high-risk shot.
“I wouldn't say that he didn't see that I was ready, but you do have a feel when the other guy is going to hit and right as I was in the top of the backswing, I think he must have pulled like a 5-wood or a 3-wood and obviously everybody started screaming,'' Garcia said on TV during the delay. “So that didn't help very much.''
After the round, Woods said Garcia didn't have his facts straight.
“The marshals, they told me he already hit, so I pulled a club and was getting ready to play my shot,'' Woods said. “And then I hear his comments afterwards, and not real surprising that he's complaining about something.''
They had a frosty relationship to begin with, and that only added another layer of ice.
Garcia said in a Golf Channel interview after he finished his third round, “We don't enjoy each other's company. You don't need to be a rocket engineer to figure that out.''
Through it all, there's a prestigious golf tournament to be won that offers $1.71 million to the winner, along with a three-year exemption to the Masters and British Open, and a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
That would be helpful for Lingmerth, who made it onto the PGA Tour through the minor leagues last year.
He hit deep into the trees right of the 18th fairway, hit the trees trying to escape and was fortunate the ball landed in the fairway. He had a two-putt bogey and then waited to see if anyone could pass him.
Woods and Garcia were on the 15th hole when play resumed.
Garcia came up well short from the rough, and then hit a soft pitch that settled 10 feet short of the cup, leading to bogey. Woods' 12-foot birdie putt caught the lip. Both made birdie on the 16th, Woods with a chip shot instead of putting through about 10 feet of fringe. That set up a short birdie putt on the par 5. Garcia's second shot was buried in gnarly rough, and he chipped out perfectly to about 4 feet for birdie.
Garcia held his breath on the island-green 17th when his wedge hit the flagstick. Instead of bouncing back into the water, it caromed to the right of the flag, and he holed the 15-foot birdie putt to tie Woods and Lingmerth. On the final hole, Garcia came up short and well to the right, and his chip from 120 feet ran just 4 feet by the hole.
A dozen players were separated by four shots going into the last round.