Joy for Garcia at Players Championship

Joy for Garcia at Players Championship

Sergio Garcia became just the second European to win the Players Championship when he beat American Paul Goydos at the first extra hole.

Twenty-one years after Scot Sandy Lyle won in the event's only other play-off, Garcia won it at the very same hole, the famous par-three 17th, with its island green, at the Sawgrass TPC.

After Goydos found the water with his tee shot, the door was open for Garcia. The Spaniard was not about to let it shut, punching a wedge to the middle of the green, and watching in delight as his ball fed down to the hole, nestling only four feet away.

After Goydos, from the drop zone, missed his unlikely par attempt, Garcia, 28, could celebrate the end of a drought of nearly three years, tapping in for a par, earning his seventh victory on the United States PGA Tour.

"A lot of hard work is starting to pay off," Garcia said, before joking: "I want to thank Tiger (Woods) for not being here. That always makes it a little bit easier."

Said Goydos: "Sergio played better than everybody. Look at the stats."

Earlier, Garcia made a clutch par at the final regulation hole to stay alive. The par-four 18th was the toughest hole on the course on an extremely windy day, and Garcia found a poor lie when his tee shot drifted into the right rough.

He advanced his second shot to within 50 yards of the pin, and then pitched to seven feet.

It was a critically important putt and, given his problems on the greens over the past few years, there were few who would have put any money on his making it.

Make it he did, however - his stroke holding up under pressure.

Then it was up to Goydos, playing in the group behind. He also found the right rough and bunted his ball down to within 50 yards of the hole.

With the tournament on the line, he hit a poor pitch, catching it a little fat and coming up 14 feet short.

As Garcia watched from the scoring room, Goydos missed his chance to win it in regulation, his putt drifting to the right.

Garcia shot a closing 71, Goydos 74, and they finished at five-under 283, one stroke ahead of American Jeff Quinney (70), who bogeyed the last to miss the play-off after his approach shot found the back bunker.

Garcia was rock solid down the stretch, apart from a birdie putt that he missed at the 16th hole.

His putter, a problem for so long, co-operated when it really mattered, the hard work he has put in with short game coach Stan Utley paying off.

With Bernhard Langer faded away to finish equal 15th, the best European apart from Garcia was Swede Henrik Stenson, who carded a superb 71 to tie for 10th on two-over. And it could have been even better, because he struggled down the stretch.

"I had it going real good, three-under after 12 (holes) and then I three-putted 13 and then doubled 14," he said.

"But I hung in well today. I'll definitely take one-under in these conditions. Today was the toughest wind of the week."

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