Ponte Vedra Beach, FL – With a little help from the Stadium Course's famed Island Green, Tiger Woods downed adversary Sergio Garcia on Sunday and won the Players Championship for the first time in over a decade.
The final leaderboard won't tell the tale, but Woods and Garcia were tied coming down the stretch at TPC Sawgrass before the latter dropped consecutive shots into the water at the par-3 17th.
Woods, playing in the penultimate group, was in the 18th fairway when Garcia concluded his quadruple bogey on No. 17, and the world No. 1 calmly parred the hole to wrap up his 2-under 70.
Garcia then doubled the last after finding water off the tee for a final-round 76, but his partner, rookie David Lingmerth, had a chance to catch Woods on the 72nd hole.
Needing a birdie to force a playoff, the Web.com Tour graduate instead rolled his lengthy putt past the cup, and Woods had his second Players Championship victory.
Woods, who also titled here in 2001, finished at 13-under-par 275 and locked up his 78th career PGA Tour victory. He has four wins in just seven events this season, marking his fastest-ever start on the circuit.
"Each year I'm tying to get better," said Woods, who was making his 300th career start. "So far this year, I'm off to a pretty good start."
Lingmerth bogeyed No. 18 for a final-round 72, which dropped him into a tie for second place with Kevin Streelman (67) and 49-year-old Jeff Maggert (70) at 11-under.
Ryan Palmer, whose childhood friend died in a car accident on Thursday, carded a final-round 72 and tied for fifth with last year's runner-up Martin Laird (67) and 2009 champion Henrik Stenson (72) at 10-under.
Garcia, the 2008 Players champ, dropped all the way to 7-under and tied for eighth with a large group which included Rory McIlroy (70), Brandt Snedeker (70) and Lee Westwood (72).
Woods, Garcia and Lingmerth were tied for the lead at the conclusion of the third round, which wrapped up Sunday morning after Saturday's suspension due to weather delays and darkness.
The two former champions played together during the rainy third round and during one of the delays Garcia griped to the media that he was distracted on No. 2 when Woods unintentionally incited a reaction from the crowd by pulling a club from his bag.
Woods fired back, saying he was "not surprised Garcia was complaining about something."
Much was made of the contentious exchange, but the hype initially died down due to the final-round pairings, which placed Woods with Casey Wittenberg.
Lingmerth birdied the first when play got underway, but Woods quickly jumped in front courtesy of birdies on Nos. 2 and 4. The world No. 1 bogeyed the sixth, but he bounced back with a birdie on the next, and maintained his advantage through the bulk of the afternoon's action.
A 15-foot birdie putt on No. 12 pushed Woods' lead to two, but he found the water to the left of the fairway off the tee on No. 14 and stumbled to a double bogey, which allowed Garcia, Lingmerth and Maggert to pull even at minus-12.
Maggert quickly fell out of contention when he found the water on the 17th, and Lingmerth bogeyed No. 14, leaving Woods and Garcia knotted in front after both players birdied the par-5 16th.
Woods went on to the Island Green, where he dropped his tee shot 47 feet from the hole and 2-putted for par.
Garcia wasn't so fortunate.
His first shot at the 17th was well short and wet, and after re-teeing, the Spaniard found the sloped grass off the green, then watched as his ball bounced into the drink, effectively ending his title bid.
"I just needed to hit it a little bit harder," acknowledged Garcia. "Maybe I was a little too confident. I felt so uncomfortable 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."
Lingmerth, meanwhile, placed his tee shot within 12 feet, but he missed a chance to tie Woods when his birdie effort went wide.
"I really don't feel like I put the pedal to the metal today," Lingmerth said. "I felt like I left a lot of shots out there. I shot even par, which is not a bad score out there, but I feel like I could have done a lot better, and that's why that's leaving a little sour taste right now."
NOTES: Woods has now converted 52 of 56 third-round leads/co-leads into victories in 72-hole PGA Tour events ... Woods had posted just one top-10 finish in 10 starts at this event since his victory in 2001 ... He is the fifth player to win twice at TPC Sawgrass, joining Steve Elkington, Hal Sutton, Fred Couples and Davis Love III ... This is the earliest any player has won four events on the PGA Tour since David Duval in 1999 ... Lingmerth had missed the cut in his previous five tournaments ... Defending champion Matt Kuchar tied for 48th place at even-par.