Tiger Woods vs. Sergio Garcia at TPC Sawgrass on Saturday was no Tiger-Rory love fest -- not that anyone expected the long-time antagonists to hold hands and skip down the fairways in their much-hyped third round of The Players Championship.
Garcia and Woods added a new, testy chapter to their one-sided would-be rivalry when the 33-year-old Spaniard blamed the 14-time major winner for his own poor shot moments after they began their round.
Not even two holes into their outing, dissension roiled the final twosome’s garden party. After finding the fairway with a good drive on the par-5 second, Garcia hit a wayward approach wide right into the trees, immediately glared to his left where Woods was preparing to go for the green, and ended up making bogey to his playing partner’s birdie.
Some time later, when lightning in the area postponed the proceedings for two hours, Garcia took his beef to NBC’s Steve Sands and ignited a firestorm of controversy and animosity that made Vijay Singh's contentious lawsuit against the PGA Tour seem like a love letter to commissioner Tim Finchem.
"I wouldn't say he didn't see that I was ready, but you do have a feel when the other guy is going to hit," Garcia said about The Incident, which added drama to the unexpectedly lackluster play from both combatants, whose distaste for each other could not be more obvious. "Right as I was on top of the backswing, he pulled a 5-wood or 3-wood out of the rough and, obviously, everybody started screaming, so that didn't help very much."
With the weather-delayed third round set to continue at 7 a.m. ET on Sunday, Garcia and Woods called it quits for the day midway through the par-4 15th. Tied for second, at 10-under, the two were a couple shots back of Players rookie David Lingmerth and more than ready to take a break from their joyless golf date.
"The marshals told me he already hit, so I pulled the club and was getting ready to play my shot and then I hear his comments afterwards," Woods, at even-par for the day, told reporters about Garcia’s earlier comments. "Not really surprising that he was complaining about something."
Garcia, who blamed his flub on cheering from Woods’ minions, had a ready retort to Woods’ remark.
"That’s fine, you know? At least I’m true to myself," Garcia said after carding a 1-over through 14. "I know what I’m doing and he can do whatever he wants."
The epilogue to their most recent golf date is not yet in the books, and Garcia may finally get the better of his adversary, who has dominated the competition in 19 previous head-to-head matchups. His incendiary off-course comments during the break, however, were likely to resonate throughout Ponte Vedra Beach far more than his stick work on Saturday.
"It certainly makes for the next three holes these guys play, in what is the third round, far more interesting," Brandel Chamblee said on Golf Channel Saturday night. "And should they get paired together [in the final round? Well, we might have those fireworks."