Sergio Garcia today refused to blame his row with Tiger Woods for the meltdown which cost him the chance of a second Players Championship at Sawgrass.
At the end of a thrilling final day, it was Woods who lifted the trophy for the second time some 12 years after the first, claiming a 78th career PGA Tour title and the richest first prize in golf of €1.3m.
But a two-shot victory for the world number one over Sweden’s David Lingmerth and American pair Jeff Maggert and Kevin Streelman did not come close to telling the full story of a dramatic finale.
After two days in which their personal animosity was made public, Woods and Garcia were tied for the lead with two holes to play, only for Garcia to dump two balls into the water on the par-three 17th to end his hopes with a quadruple-bogey seven.
Playing partner Lingmerth somehow ignored all the drama to hit his own tee shot to seven feet, but missed the birdie putt that would have taken him into a share of the lead and also bogeyed the last trying to force a play-off.
That meant Woods’ closing 70 and 13-under-par total of 275 was good enough for the win that takes the 37-year-old to within four of equalling the record of 82 held by Sam Snead.
Garcia, who found more water on the 18th for a double-bogey six and a closing 76 to finish six shots behind, had earlier confirmed what had been suspected for many years following an incident with Woods during Saturday’s third round.
“He’s not my favourite guy to play with,” said the Spaniard, who felt he had been disturbed on his approach to the second hole when spectators cheered Woods for taking a fairway wood out of his bag, indicating he would try to reach the green from his position in the trees.
“He’s not the nicest guy on Tour. We don’t like each other. It doesn’t take a rocket engineer to figure that out. He is who he is. I am who I am. It’s best we’re not playing together again.”
But when asked if the row had affected his performance, Garcia told reporters: “I’m not going to blame it on that. It sounds like I was the bad guy here. I was the victim, so I don’t have any regrets.
“You have to be disappointed after I fought so hard throughout the whole weekend. I didn’t feel that great with my swing and all of a sudden I got going nicely from the 11th hole onwards. I felt like I was hitting the ball better, felt a bit calmer and probably got a bit too confident on 17.
“I felt I hit so many good shots in a row, I just underhit it a little; it was on a great line but unfortunately just a little too soft.”
Woods went into the final round tied for the lead with Garcia and Lingmerth and looked in control with a two-shot lead on the 14th, only to hook his tee shot into the water and run up a double-bogey six.
Birdies from Lingmerth and Garcia on the 13th at the same time meant there was suddenly a four-way tie for the lead, but Maggert showed what was in store for Garcia when his hopes came to a watery end on the 17th.
Woods edged in front with a birdie on the 16th that was matched by Garcia in the group behind, only for hopes of a thrilling finish to be dashed on the next.
Asked about breaking Snead’s record, Woods said: “The whole idea is to keep winning golf tournaments, the records will take care of themselves in the end. Each and every year I’m trying to get better and so far this year I am off to a pretty good start.”
With four wins in his last five events, few could argue with that.