PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Sergio Garcia brought three putters to The Players Championship.
He has one in the bag, one in the house and one in the trash — and no plans to rearrange them.
Despite struggling on the Bermuda greens — he has 86 putts through three rounds — Garcia is once again in the hunt heading into the final round at the TPC Sawgrass. The Spaniard shot a 5-under 67 in the third round Saturday, moving to 8 under and sitting two strokes behind leader Chris Kirk.
“I’m very confident with my game, with my long game,” Garcia said. “Even my chipping has been quite good for most of the year. Unfortunately my putting has just been up and down. Some great rounds and then some round where, I don’t know, I can’t even see the hole. … It’s been a funny year. Hopefully, I can kind of turn it around on that aspect.”
If he does, Garcia might win his second Players Championship.
The 2008 Players champion ranks among the best in the field in fairways hit and green in regulation. He’s 37th in putting.
Garcia struggled so much with his putter Friday that he switched grips during the round — using conventional and claw placements — and then tossed it in the garbage after an even-par 72. He went back to a prototype putter he used Thursday.
But he still continued to struggle with the flat stick, saying he has missed five putts inside 4 feet.
“It’s not the first time it’s happened to me,” he said. “I guess on that aspect, I know what to expect. Unfortunately, I’m not the kind of guy that can say, you know, I won a lot of tournaments because of my putting, so I guess on that aspect I know what to expect, but it’s still frustrating to see that.”
Still, Garcia remains confident at an event that has paid him more than $4 million in prize money since 2000. He has four top-five finishes, including a third-place showing last year.
“Well, in a way I am a little surprised that I am where I am the way I feel, because I feel like I left a lot of shots out there,” he said. “But at the same time, I guess I’ve always said that this is one of my favorite courses and I feel like I can do well here even without being full on with my putting because it’s a ball-striker’s game, it’s a ball-striker’s golf course.
“So, if you can hit a lot of greens, the greens are small, so if you are hitting greens, you usually have birdie chances. And I’m usually fairly good at that. So we’ll see what happens (Sunday).”
STREAK ENDS: Robert Allenby’s impressive streak at Sawgrass’ famed island green is over.
Allenby had played 44 consecutive competitive rounds at The Players without hitting a ball in the water at the par-3 17th.
He plopped two in the drink Saturday.
Allenby’s first shot wasn’t all that bad. He seemingly hit it a little thin, and the ball rolled through the green and dropped into the murky lagoon. He walked to the drop area for the first time since 2001 and came up short. He re-teed from there, knocked his next shot to about 6 feet and made the triple-bogey putt.
Allenby had some fun from there, tossing his ball in the water and then pretending to toss his putter and caddie in.
SAY AGAIN: Two similar, two different answers.
Rory McIlroy was asked early in his interview if he would look at the number of shots he was out of the lead or the number of players he would have to pass.
“How many shots I’m behind,” he said. “I think that’s the only way you can look at it. Anyone that’s five, maybe six shots behind, they can go out and shoot a low one tomorrow and especially during the afternoon, the greens get a little firmer, conditions get a little tougher.”
A late arrival to the media session asked if the number of strokes or number of players was more difficult to overcome.
“The players in front of you, I think,” McIlroy said. “You’re looking at the score, that’s really what it is. But even today it’s like I dropped a shot there on the eighth hole. I started the day T13 and all of a sudden I’m T42. Then you go back up and I’m right back to where I was at the start of the day.
“So, with it so bunched, you can jump so many places with a birdie or bogey.”
DIVOTS: The par-3 17th played relatively easy Friday, with just three balls landing in the water. And Robert Allenby hit two of those. That brings the three-round total to 40 balls in the water (37 tee shots) at the famed island green. … The top 10 players on the leaderboard have a combined zero majors and 23 PGA Tour wins. The bottom 10 players, meanwhile, have 27 majors and 153 tour victories. … After a birdie at No. 17, former Florida standout Billy Horschel turned to a group of Florida State fans who had been giving him the “tomahawk chop” and did the “gator chomp.” ”It was all in good fun,” said Horschel, who was wearing bright orange pants and an orange and blue striped shirt. “We were all smiling. They loved it when I gave it back to them, so it was nothing malicious. It was all a little tongue in cheek a little bit.”
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