Philadelphia, PA – It started during Saturday's rain delay at the Players Championship. Sergio Garcia agreed to an interview with NBC, and basically threw Tiger Woods under a bus.
Garcia called Woods out for a little gamesmanship. Woods responded later by saying he wasn't surprised Garcia was complaining about something.
The incident took place on the second hole of the third round when the two were paired together. Garcia's drive was in the middle of the fairway, while Woods was some 50 yards away, in the woods.
Not knowing what Garcia was doing, Woods studied his shot and pulled a club out of his bag. As he did so, some in the massive crowd around him started the cheer that Woods was going for the green via a fairway wood.
As that was happening, Garcia was standing over his second shot. NBC synched the video as the two things happened. Woods clearly pulled a club a second or two or three before Garcia started to swing.
The Spaniard flared his shot out to the right, then quickly turned and glared in Woods' direction.
First of all, it wasn't like Woods did anything intentional and secondly, maybe 20 or 30 people near Woods reacted when he was surrounded by hundreds of fans.
More on their back-and-forth later.
What came of their play from that point forward is the real story from the week. Woods birdied that hole, but bogeyed the next. The round was eventually suspended due to darkness later, and Woods would card 14 pars and one birdie the rest of the round.
Garcia bogeyed that hole and didn't recover that stroke until he birdied the ninth. On the back nine, spread over later Saturday and early Sunday, Garcia carded three birdies and three bogeys.
Woods had a 71, Garcia a 72.
Thankfully for them, but, unfortunately, for the viewing public, David Lingmerth joined them at 11-under after three rounds. Since Garcia finished his third round first, he was paired with Lingmerth, not Woods for the final round.
After play was called by darkness on Saturday, both players shared their version of events from earlier in the day. Neither was pleased with what the other had stated.
If this were the 2000 version of Tiger Woods, he would he have shot 64 on Sunday and told Sergio in no uncertain terms to stick it. The 2013 version of Woods did just enough to win as he mixed five birdies, a bogey and a double- bogey in a final round 70.
By shooting 70, Woods forced Garcia and Lingmerth to post a score in the 60s if they wanted to win.
Lingmerth, a tour rookie, had been in this position once before on the PGA Tour at the Humana Challenge, where he lost in a playoff. He carded four birdies and four bogeys in a final round 72 to end two back of Woods.
When others like Jeff Maggert and Henrik Stenson couldn't make a Sunday charge, the pressure was squarely on Garcia's shoulders.
And he crumbled like a house of cards.
Tied with Woods with two tough holes to go, Garcia dumped two balls in the water at the island green 17th, and splashed another ball in the water off the 18th tee. Garcia closed quadruple-bogey, double-bogey to end six back.
This was the 20th time Woods and Garcia were paired in a PGA Tour event. Woods had posted a better score than Garcia in 13 of those rounds, while Garcia bettered Woods on three occasions. They tied the other four rounds.
Woods tied for third in greens in regulation, shared 15th in birdies made and tied for 19th in driving accuracy. Those numbers helped Woods collect his fourth PGA Tour win of the season.
The victory moved Woods within four of Sam Snead's tour record of 82. Woods' bigger goal is to break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championship titles. Woods will get that chance in five weeks at Merion, site of this year's U.S. Open Championship.
GARCIA NEEDS TO GROW UP
Paul Azinger pointed out on twitter over the weekend that it is weird some in the golf media still consider Garcia a kid.
Well, that kid is 32 now and has been chasing Woods since the 1999 PGA Championship. Their pairing on Saturday was the 20th time they played with each other.
Garcia should be used to the distraction that comes with being paired with Woods.
Woods may not be in the clear because he did pull a club about the time Garcia was about to hit his second shot to a par-5 second on Saturday. But Garcia has to understand that Woods had no idea what the Spaniard was doing.
At the end of the day Saturday, Woods said the marshals told him that Garcia had hit, so Woods went into his pre-shot routine and pulled a club. The problem was Garcia hadn't hit. Believe what you want.
In the synched video shown by NBC, Garcia clearly had time to step away. It wasn't a loud reaction from the gallery around Woods, and in reality, it was no different than a player two or three holes over making a big eagle putt.
Players step away from shots when things like that happen all the time. Sergio basically blamed Woods for that bad shot, but did man up later and admit that he hit several other bad ones and they were all his fault.
Garcia has never been a fan favorite in the United States. Whether it's battling Woods on Saturday via the media, or his outstanding play (16-8-4) in the Ryder Cup, Garcia has rubbed fans on this side of the pond the wrong way.
If he starts taking more accountability like he did for his other bad shots, maybe things will change.
Until then, Garcia needs to start acting 32 and not 19. He does own over 20 international victories and has played in six Ryder Cups, so it's not like he isn't used to dealing with big crowds.
I'm sure Garcia's tone would have been a lot different if, say, Jose Maria Olazabal's crowd reacted the way Woods' crowd responded.
You've been there before, Sergio. Now, it's time for you to start acting like it.
* Non-golfers wonder what makes golf such a fickle game. Here's one good explanation. Last week's PGA Tour winner, Derek Ernst, was ranked 1,207 in the world rankings. Woods won this past week's event, and was the top-ranked player in the game. Did Woods face a stronger field than Ernst? Sure, but Ernst beat the field that was assembled at the Wells Fargo Championship, and that's all that matters.
* Lingmerth has shared second place twice in 13 PGA Tour starts as a rookie. He has made only three other cuts and hasn't cracked the top 30 in those events.