Sergio Garcia lost his lead in two holes at The Players Championship, and he said it didn’t help playing with Tiger Woods.
The third round Saturday was delayed nearly two hours when thunderstorms moved toward the north Florida coast. During the delay, Garcia provided a little more fuel to his rivalry with Woods by suggesting he caused the crowd to cheer as Garcia was playing a shot.
Garcia, who started with a one-shot lead over Woods, was in the fairway on the par-5 second hole. Woods hooked his tee shot deep into the trees, where he was surrounded by a thick wall of fans. Garcia heard a big cheer as he swung, and his ball sailed well to the right under some trees, making it nearly impossible to get onto the green.
The big cheer that disrupted Garcia was the crowd reacting to Woods pulling out a fairway metal for his second shot, a risky play with a 15-foot gap through the trees. Garcia looked over to the crowd as his ball was headed well right of the green. In a television interview during the storm delay, Garcia implicated Woods.
”Well, obviously Tiger was on the left and it was my shot to hit,” Garcia said. ”He moved all of the crowd that he needed to move. I waited for that. 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. So that didn’t help very much.”
Garcia punched out short from the trees, chipped it 8 feet past the hole and two-putted for a bogey. Woods hit a fairway metal off the pine needles and into a bunker, blasted out to 10 feet and rolled in the birdie putt to briefly take the lead.
Woods three-putted from long range on the par-3 third and fell back into a tie with Garcia at 10-under. Henrik Stenson was 11-under through eight holes when play resumed.
”But it was unfortunate because … I mean, I might have hit it there if nothing happens, you never know," Garcia said. "But if I hit a good shot there and maybe make birdie, it gets my day started in a bit of a different way.”
Asked how he dealt with the situation, Garcia said there was nothing he could do.
”I think that I try to respect everyone as much as possible out there,” Garcia said. ”I try to be careful what I do to make sure it doesn’t bother the other players.”
Stenson, the 2009 Players champion who was two groups ahead of them, made a 3-foot birdie on the fourth, missed from 5 feet on the fifth for birdie, and then rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the sixth to take the outright lead.
Jeff Maggert also had a share of the lead at one point. He made bogey on the 18th and wound up with a 66. Maggert was the clubhouse leader at 9-under 207.
Garcia, with a wild swing of emotions whenever he plays, looked subdued on the first tee. He went out to the practice green and leaned on his bag in the minutes before his tee time, mostly watching Woods chip and putt.
Woods and Garcia have never had a friendly relationship. Woods was said to be put off when Garcia celebrated wildly after winning a Monday night ”Battle at Bighorn” exhibition in 2000. During the 2002 US Open at Bethpage Black, which Woods won wire-to-wire, Garcia complained that play should have been stopped in the second round because of the rain.
”If Tiger Woods would have been out there, it would have been called,” Garcia said that day.
Saturday was the sixth time Woods and Garcia have played together in the final group on the weekend. Woods went on to win the previous five tournaments.