Welp, the relationship between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia was already a bit frosty, but after the Spaniard's comments during Saturday's rain delay at the Players Championship, it may turn outwardly hostile. The two are playing in the much-hyped final pairing in the third round at TPC Sawgrass, and Garcia started the day with a one-shot lead.
But that lead disappeared by the second hole, as a two-shot swing flipped each player's position less than a half-hour into the round. Tiger made birdie on the par-5 second to move to 9-under on those nine holes so far this week. Sergio, on the other hand, sent his second shot way into the woods on the right and could not recover to save par. As soon as he made the swing, Sergio glared to his left, where Tiger was busy fussing around in the trees and pondering how to come back out on his second shot. Garcia incredulously shook his head, and Golf Channel's Tiger Tracker said he looked "pissed" about Woods potentially provoking crowd noise over in the trees.
A little over an hour later, when he sat down with Golf Channel/NBC's Steve Sands during the delay, Sergio didn't really hold anything back. He took a shot at Tiger, one that the No. 1 player in the world will surely hear about before the two get back out on the course. Here's the portion of Garcia's comments effectively blaming Tiger for the mishit on No. 2:
Well, obviously Tiger was on the left and it was my shot to hit. He moved all the crowd that he needed to move, I waited for that. I wouldn't say that he didn't see that I was ready, but you do have a feel when the other guy is going to hit and right as I was in the top of the backswing, I think he must have pulled like a five-wood or a three-wood and obviously everybody started screaming. So that didn't help very much. But it was unfortunate because -- I mean I might have hit it there if nothing happens, you never know -- but if I hit a good shot there and maybe make birdie, it gets my day started in a bit of a different way.
Sands then asked a relatively benign question about responding to that kind of adversity, and Sergio again took another veiled shot:
There's really not much you can do. I think that I try to respect everyone as much as possible out there. I try to be careful what I do to make sure it doesn't bother the other players.
And now here's video of the shot as well as Sergio's response to the initial question from Sands:
Tiger will probably not respond or comment much on the controversy, but it will definitely be logged for future motivation. Golf World's Ron Sirak tweeted earlier on Sunday that the two had not said a word to each other through their first five holes. After these comments, I suspect the only words going forward, if any, will be confrontational ones.
In the late 90s, the two were once hailed as rivals and the future of golf. But since their battle at Medinah in the 1999 PGA Championship, Garcia has failed to win a major while watching Tiger's total balloon to 14. The two were initially friendly, close in age and carrying the burdensome "prodigy" label. But that relationship fell apart, and most blame Garcia's celebratory behavior and dancing at Big Horn, a silly season event where he beat an ill Tiger over a decade ago. That was the beginning of the end, and there have been other bumps along the way -- most notably when Sergio said the USGA would have delayed the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage if Tiger had been scheduled to go out in the rough conditions.
This will be another page in the dossier Tiger keeps on Sergio, and will be stewed over before the third round resumes. Good luck, Sergio. Come at the king, you best not miss.