Who needs friends when you have an enemy like Sergio Garcia? Tiger Woods did not so much win the Players Championship as fish it out of the water after Garcia’s challenge drowned at the penultimate hole.
Coming off a birdie at 16 to drawl level with Woods, who made his par at 17 to stay 13 under par, Garcia sent consecutive tee shots into the drink surrounding the island green. There was no Woods to blame for a drawing his club this time. The first was a shocker, the second no better and down the leaderboard he sank after posting a quadruple bogey 7.
Garcia rinsed another off the 18th tee, but it was no longer relevant, except to his bank manager. The mistake ultimately cost him $1.5 million, the difference between victory and his final resting place, a tie for eighth.
Up on the green Woods calmly slotted his par for a round of 70 and his third win in four outings by two shots. Rookie David Lingmerth, playing alongside Garcia in the final group, had a putt for birdie to force a play-off but turned it into a bogey.
That Woods had opened the door to his rivals with a double bogey at 14 after finding water himself was no more than a detail in the end. Controversy bubbled briefly when TV pundit Johnny Miller questioned the validity of his drop but playing partner Casey Wittenberg validated Woods’s decision and the rumblings quickly subsided.
So Woods added the ‘fifth major’ to his list of PGA Tour victories for the second time. His first came 12 years ago during his formidable peak. It is his fourth victory in six stroke play events on the PGA Tour this year and we are in only the second week of May.
Scot Martin Laird, who finished second last year, was the highest finishing Briton in a share of fifth, three strokes adrift. Rory McIlroy fired four birdies in his closing six holes, including a hat-trick from the 15th, for a round of 70 and a share of eighth place on seven under par alongside Lee Westwood. Luke Donald was two back on five under.