A day after snapping his putter in half in frustration, Sergio Garcia fought back into contention for a second Players Championship title at Sawgrass.
Garcia was so frustrated with his putting during a second round of 72 that he switched back and forth between a conventional grip and the “claw” method he has used successfully for the last few years.
And after detailing his frustrations to the media – admitting “I don’t know what to do” – the Ryder Cup star found the nearest bin, broke his putter in half and disposed of it in unceremonial fashion.
Having secured a replacement for the third round, Garcia still missed a number of short putts – most notably from three feet for birdie on the 13th – but also chipped in for an eagle on the second and carded five birdies and two bogeys in a superb 67.
That left the 2008 champion on eight under par, two shots off the lead held by American Chris Kirk, with compatriots Kevin Kisner, Bill Haas and Ben Martin a shot behind.
The top 25 players were separated by just four shots, with Ryder Cup team-mates Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter four shots off the pace on six under after matching rounds of 70.
Garcia crucially saved par from 12 feet on the 18th after a poor approach and told Sky Sports: “Unfortunately I am still not 100 per cent with my putting. I missed three or four shorties but at least it was nice to make that last one on 18.
“That was big. I hit a great shot and a bad second, hit a very good chip and to be able to make that putt hopefully gives me a chance to do something (on Sunday).”
The 35-year-old Spaniard revealed he had brought three putters to Sawgrass - “One of them is back in the house and one is in the garbage” – and said he would stick with the “claw” grip for the final round.
“Even when it does not feel great, it still feels less bad than the other one,” he added. “Hopefully I get some confidence from the nice putts I made today and try to forget the bad ones.”
Kirk recovered from bogeys on the 13th and 14th with birdies at the next three holes to card a second successive 68, with halfway joint leader Kevin Na also reaching 10 under until a double bogey on the 18th.
“I won’t be any less nervous than anybody else,” said Kirk, who was overlooked for a Ryder Cup wild card last year despite winning the Deutsche Bank Championship just before US captain Tom Watson made his selections.
“I don’t know if I will be able to pull it off tomorrow, but knowing that you have done it before is always nice.”
Poulter salvaged a bogey on the 18th after hooking his tee shot into the water, while another birdie chance went begging on the same hole for a frustrated McIlroy.
“Tee to green it’s been really good, I’ve given myself a lot of chances and really could not convert much,” McIlroy said. “I’ve struggled to read the greens all week and just don’t quite have it on the greens like I did last week (when he won the WGC-Cadillac Match Play).
“I’ve left myself in a position where I am going to need something pretty special tomorrow to have a chance; a 64 or 65 to get somewhere around 13 or 14 under. I think that would go very close.”
Earlier in the day, former world number one Tiger Woods gained an unwanted record as he struggled to a third round of 75.
The 39-year-old had insisted he could still win a third Players title despite making the halfway cut right on the mark of level par, but a front nine of 40 put paid to any faint hopes and saw the 14-time major winner record multiple double bogeys on par fives for the first time in his professional career.
That left Woods 13 shots off the lead on three over par, tied for 68th of the 75 players who had made the cut.