Garcia wins TPC playoff

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunday at Sawgrass felt tougher on Sergio Garcia than what he faced last summer at the British Open, a playoff loss that seemed to define a career filled with more talent than trophies.

He was tormented by a suspect putter. He heard questions whether he could win a big one.

All that changed in the final hour of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., thanks to two clutch putts, a wedge that found safety on an island and a playoff victory that Garcia desperately needed.

The best player without a major got the next best thing, making a 7-foot par putt that put him in a playoff, then beating Paul Goydos on the notorious island-green 17th with a wedge into 4 feet and a putt he could afford to miss after Goydos hit into the water.

"It feels like a major, and it tests you like a major," Garcia said. "I'm so thrilled to be here standing with the trophy."

It was a long time coming.

Garcia was in the longest victory drought of his career, stretching over three years and 53 starts on the PGA Tour. Motivated by criticism of his putting, he rolled in one critical putt after another, none bigger than a slippery par putt on the final hole for a 1-under 71.

It put him in a playoff when Goydos missed a 15-foot par putt in the final group behind him.

The first playoff in 21 years at The Players didn't last long. Goydos, hitting first, watched helplessly as a gust caused his wedge to balloon into the cloudy skies and land with a splash a few feet in front of the green.

Garcia, with no margin for error, followed with a wedge that landed on the green, caught a slope and stopped 4 feet away. He missed the birdie putt, but it didn't matter.

Goydos wound up with a double bogey and a horrible coincidence.

There were 65 balls hit into the water during the tournament. Goydos was the first to deposit one in the opening round Thursday, and the last at the worst possible time in a sudden-death playoff.

For a guy with only two victories in his career, Goydos was abundantly gracious in defeat.

"Look at the shot Sergio hit in the playoff," Goydos said. "I got beat. I played good golf. That doesn't mean you win. There's no defense. I can't tackle the little guy. There's no knee-capping. You have to accept the guy beat me.

"They key is to have the lead with no holes to go."

Garcia and Goydos each finished at 5-under 283.

The 28-year-old Spaniard, whose seven PGA Tour victories are the most by players under age 30, earned $1.71 million from the richest purse in golf.

The consolation for Goydos was $1.026 million for second place.

Jeff Quinney had a chance to join the playoff. He went bogey-free for 10 holes in gusts that topped 40 mph at times, but failed to save par from a bunker behind the 18th green and had to settle for a 70 and third place alone, one shot behind.

LPGA Tour

Annika Sorenstam's comeback is real. And with her third victory in eight events this season, she also showed she can beat the new No. 1, Lorena Ochoa.

The eight-time player of the year pulled away from Ochoa on Saturday, using her typical steadiness for a 2-under 69, then did the same to Jeong Jang on Sunday. A binge of four birdies in five holes on the back nine Sunday left no doubt the injuries that led to her winless 2007 are behind her, and that her once-unrivaled game is almost all the way back.

Sorenstam shot a closing 66 in the Michelob Ultra Open in Williamsburg, Va., to obliterate Karrie Webb's tournament record by five shots with a 265 total. Jang missed a short putt on the final hole for her first bogey in 35 holes and dropped into a tied for second with Christina Kim (69), Allison Fouch (64) and Karen Stupples (66).

-- The Associated Press

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