PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Being in contention at The Players Championship was nothing new for Sergio Garcia.
Neither was the heckling.
But it sure seemed louder and more obnoxious than normal for the Spaniard during the three-man, three-hole playoff Sunday.
Garcia was harassed on several shots, most notably when a small group of spectators yelled “U-S-A!” during his putting stroke at the famed 17th green. Garcia didn’t really come close on the 40-footer and later failed to advance to the sudden-death portion of the playoff.
Rickie Fowler and Kevin Kisner did, and Fowler followed with his fifth birdie of the week at the island hole and notched his second PGA Tour victory.
“It was great for the most part,” Garcia said. “Obviously, some guys there that don’t deserve to be here watching golf, but that’s what it is.”
Asked how often he was heckled, Garcia said “it was probably about three or four times on every hole since the 10th hole.”
Garcia said that’s pretty typical when he’s in contention at an event and refused to blame his play down the stretch on anything other than himself.
“No, no, no, they shouted at the wrong time on top of the ball, so I was able to back away,” he said. “But, no, no, I wouldn’t say that I did, no.”
Garcia had a two-shot lead on the back nine, but Fowler and Kisner closed the gap and forced golf’s version of overtime. Garcia made three pars in the three-hole aggregate playoff, not enough to move on after Fowler and Kisner made birdies at 17.
But Garcia walked away from The Players feeling much better about his game, especially his putting. He struggled on the Bermuda greens earlier in the week, so much so that he threw one putter in the garbage and even switched grips in the middle of a round.
He needed just 27 putts in the final round Sunday.
“I putted quite good,” he said. “But for the rest of the week, I gave away a lot of shots and still almost won this tournament. So I can’t be disappointed.”
Garcia tied for second with Kisner. It was his third consecutive top-10 finish at The Players and sixth in the last 13 years.
“Overall, it was another good week here at The Players so I can’t be disappointed,” he said.
HOT HORSCHEL: Billy Horschel blamed his Sunday struggles on a little, old lady at the 10th tee.
Yep, Horschel said the woman snapped a picture during his backswing and caused him to yank his shot left into a bunker. It led to the second of three straight bogeys, which contributed to an even-par 72 and 13th-place finish at The Players.
The lady nearly got an earful.
“I went and spoke to the lady. It was an older lady, and it was lucky she was a lady,” Horschel said. “I was very nice to her. If it was a guy, I would have probably maybe ripped him a new one and I would have taken the fine like a man.”
Horschel added that the incident got him off track.
“It sort of got me off my rhythm, took me a couple holes to get back into it,” he said. “I took the club back and I was always afraid there was going to be a camera click. I hit the shot in the water (at 11). Like I said, it was just unfortunate.”
Horschel said he kept the conversation clean — it was, after all, Mother’s Day.
“If it was a gentleman, there would have been some bleeps for sure. … I was trying to be nice to her. There were a lot of people around. I went up to her and I sort of said, “Ma’am, you know, taking pictures during the round of golf is not allowed. Also, your phone should be on vibrate and silent, so if you do take a picture, it doesn’t affect me. And you taking that picture just cost me at least one or two shots now.’
“And I said, ‘Thank you. Have a great day,’ and I wasn’t very happy. I held it together. I was very nice, but inside there was, you know, like, if it was a guy, I may have ripped him a new one.”
ROOKIE OUTING: Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley brought his entire rookie class — eight draft picks and nearly two dozen players total — to the franchise’s hospitality tent near the 17th tee Sunday.
First-round draft pick Dante Fowler Jr., who tore a ligament in his left knee Friday, also made the trip. Fowler got a front-row seat and propped his heavily wrapped and braced leg on a chair.
“I saw Tiger Woods. I can cross that one off the bucket list,” Fowler said.
The rookies greeted fans in and around the tent as well as around the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
“This is an unbelievable experience for them,” Bradley said. “I always tell them, ‘Connect with the following,’ and what better way than this to meet fans and see the importance of this event to the community.”
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