Garcia among past champions in contention
May 09, 2015
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Sergio Garcia stands T5 entering the final round at TPC Sawgrass' PLAYERS Stadium Course. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Sergio Garcia can sometimes seem like a glass-half-empty kind of guy, and Saturday was no exception.
As happy as he was to be contending for his second PLAYERS Championship title, starting the final round two strokes off the lead, Garcia couldn't help but worry about his putting that has been up and down all year.
"Some great rounds and then some rounds where ... I can't even see the hole," the 35-year-old lamented.
Since arriving at TPC Sawgrass this week, Garcia has already tried two different grips and two different putters. The third one he brought to north Florida is now in a garbage can.
Not that this is the first time the Spaniard has been caught searching on the greens.
"Unfortunately, I'm not the kind of guy that can say I won a lot of tournaments because of my putting," Garcia said with a wry smile. "So I guess on that aspect I know what to expect, but it's still frustrating to see."
But the Stadium Course is a ball-striker's delight, and that's where the 2008 PLAYERS champion excels. Put enough balls on those tiny greens in regulation -- and Garcia is tied for fourth in that stat category -- and there are sure to be birdie opportunities on Sunday.
Garcia isn't the only former champion in the mix, either. Adam Scott, who won in 2004, is 6 under and four strokes off the pace, while Martin Kaymer, thanks to a double bogey at No. 18 on Saturday, has six to make up if he's to successfully defend.
"We all want to win this tournament a lot and someone will put it all together," said Scott, who shot 69 on Saturday. "So I'm going to have to have that kind of Davis Love round, I expect."
Love, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain who actually was at TPC Sawgrass doing a series of interviews on Saturday, had trailed Jay Haas and Padraig Harrington by two strokes entering the final round in 2003. He closed with a brilliant 64 on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon and won by six.
Scott and Kaymer each held at least a share of the lead entering the final round of their victories. Garcia, on the other hand, was three behind Paul Goydos and ended up winning in a playoff.
Even though he felt he has left an average of three strokes on the course each day, Garcia has still managed three rounds at par or better. And while he ranks 70th in strokes gained: putting, Garcia is first in the same category tee-to-green.
So the glass that's half empty when viewing his putting is more than half full assessing his ball-striking ability. It's just that Garcia has always been hard on himself -- a fact not lost on his peers.
"There's a reason that he gets so down on himself, because he is so talented and he knows what he can achieve and he knows how good he can be," world No. 1 Rory McIlroy said. "We're all like that at times. I get frustrated with myself, but I feel like I can just sort of let it go maybe a little easier, and maybe that Latin blood in there sort of gets him a little fired up."
And make no mistake: Garcia is fired up at the opportunity to win the PGA TOUR's signature event for the second time in eight years. This is his 16th appearance at THE PLAYERS and he has five top-10 finishes, all but one of which has been fourth or better, including third last year.
"In a way I am a little surprised that I am where I am, the way I feel, because I feel like I left a lot of shots out there," Garcia said. "But at the same time I guess I've always said that this is one of my favorite courses and I feel like I can do well here, even without being full-on with my putting, because it's a ball-striker's game.
"So if you are hitting greens, you usually have birdie chances. And I'm usually fairly good at that. So, we'll see what happens tomorrow.”
Sergio Garcia interview after Round 3 of THE PLAYERS