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Sergio Classy in Defeat
Let the golf historians decide whether Tiger Woods was stronger mentally than Sergio Garcia in the 2013 Players Championship. Certainly, the results Sunday indicate that Woods was far superior to the hot-blooded Spaniard, not only because Woods won his 78th career title in a tour de force performance, but because of how Garcia went down in flames.
The day before, while paired together in the third round, Garcia strongly implied that Woods discourteously drew a club in the middle of Garcia's second shot on the par-5 second hole - causing a big cheer from Woods' fans that resulted in a Garcia bogey on a birdie hole.
The golf world went a-Twitter at Garcia's complaints, making the final round of the Players not only one of golf's - but all of sports' - most riveting moments in 2013. So Garcia came into the final round on a very exacting golf course carrying some excess baggage.
On Sunday, Garcia's apparent bluster was drowned for everyone to see on the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. There, he deposited two tee balls into the water around the iconic island green. The resulting quadruple-bogey and, adding insult to injury, subsequent water ball off the tee at 18 put the 33-year-old into major goat territory.
That said, Garcia, though never exactly contrite about the Woods incident and certainly not regretting his club selection on 17, played well Sunday. At least until the final two holes, where for all the world to see he racked up 13 strokes where the aggregate par is seven. Before then, he was 2-under par on the day and tied with Woods for the lead.
Unfortunately for Garcia, a fine finish and a possible tie with Woods - if not a better result - wasn't in the offing.
Still, the eight-time Tour winner and 2008 Players champion faced the music afterward quite admirably, as a Valencian with distinct orgullo would.
Garcia, regardless of his foibles - and there are many, took the expected tough questions like a man. Here's what he told reporters after the final round in his Q&A.
Q. You looked after both of those swings on 17 like you thought they were pretty good shots.
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, I just under hit it a little bit. I felt with a little bit of adrenaline and stuff I didn't want to shoot over the green with a wedge. Just needed to hit it a little bit harder, maybe a little too confident. I felt so uncomfortable throughout the whole - throughout most of the weekend, and then all of a sudden I started hitting good shots and I felt like I was back feeling good. If I would have hit it a bit farther left it would have been fine. I mean, that hole has been good to me for the most part. Today it wasn't. That's the way it is. That's the kind of hole it is. You've got to love it for what it is.
Q. You ripped it down there on 16. Is that when you said I'm starting to feel it here?
SERGIO GARCIA: No, I think it came before that. I think from 11 onwards I felt like I was hitting good shots. I feel like I was starting to hit the ball more like I wanted. I was hitting a couple draws here and there, a couple fades, and I hit some good shots. I hit a really good shot on 13, I hit a really good shot on 14, 15 was a pretty good shot with a bad angle I had, and 16 I hit a great shot with a 6 iron. 17 I hit a good shot, unfortunately just hit it too soft.
Q. Did you think at all of going to the drop zone?
SERGIO GARCIA: No, obviously I did, but it was really - it was just a really bad angle, and the wind was from the left from there, and if I had to hit from the drop zone I probably needed to hit it low, bounce it into the up slope and then let it roll down. I don't think I could have stopped it flying it on top. So I thought, I'll just hit the same shot a little bit harder, and I did, but a little bit of breeze picked up and it bounced on top and came back, and the next one I hit it a little bit harder and finally got on the green.
Q. How long do you think 17 will stick with you? How long will it bug you?
SERGIO GARCIA: Not at all. It doesn't bug me now. It happens. Like I said before, I've been fortunate on that hole. I've won my Players Championship on that hole, and today I'm not going to say I lost it because I still - obviously Tiger was 13 under and I still needed to make par there and par on 18 which is not easy with this wind from the left. But I definitely stopped winning it there.
Q. Through all the stuff with Tiger yesterday, were you mentally affected? Was your game not as sharp because of the back and forth with Tiger?
SERGIO GARCIA: No, I wouldn't say that. It's just one of those things that some days you feel a bit more comfortable and you feel like your whole body is moving the way you want it. Some days it wants to fight a little bit with you. No, I'm not going to blame it on that. That happened one hole, and obviously everybody saw what happened and that's it. Other than that, some -
Q. Was it a distraction?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I mean, was it a distraction? Maybe a little bit. But I mean, it really distracted me at that time, then after that you kind of move on and you try to figure things out.
Q. How juiced up were you standing on the 71st tee tied with Tiger after all the stuff with Tiger?
SERGIO GARCIA: I was fine.
Q. It was a real dramatic -
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, but I was feeling pretty good. I was actually - taking away 18, the last six, seven holes, I was feeling probably as calm - well, not as calm as all week, but as calm as I felt on Friday because I was starting to see that I was doing more what I wanted. It wasn't like hoping to hit it one way and see where it went. But I mean, obviously you do feel the juices going a little bit because it's that kind of golf hole and you might have a chance of winning the Players. But nothing out of the ordinary.
Q. I know you wanted to win the Players again, but how bad did you want to beat him considering all the fuss?
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, like I always said, you want to win every tournament you play on. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. And you want to beat everybody in that field, and if he's in that field obviously you want to beat him. It's always nice to have a chance at beating the No.1 player in the world, but unfortunately for me I wasn't able to this week.
Q. Can you take us through maybe what's going through your mind as the ball is in the air and just the emotions as you see it splash down?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, as the ball was in the air I was thinking, please be right, because it was straight at it. It was probably three feet left of the hole. When it splashed, you think, well, hopefully I hit a good shot after this and make 4 and still have a chance on the next. You know, it's pretty much as simple as that.
Q. The whole Tiger thing yesterday, if you had it to do over again, would you do things any differently?
SERGIO GARCIA: No, no. I don't know, it sounds like I was the bad guy here. I was the victim. You know, I don't have any regrets of anything.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.