PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A rift between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia attracted all the attention on a stormy day at Sawgrass (see related story), but Swedish rookie David Lingmerth quietly went about his business and wound up atop the leaderboard Saturday in The Players Championship.
Lingmerth finished a wild day with an 8-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th and a 10-foot birdie on the island-green 17th to reach 12-under par when the third round was suspended because of darkness. It was delayed nearly two hours because of threatening storms.
Woods, Garcia and Henrik Stenson — all former Players champions — were two shots behind. The Players Championship is shaping up to be quite a finish.
Lingmerth, who began his rookie season by losing in a playoff at the Humana Challenge, poured in par putts along the back nine to stay around the leaders, and then he raced by them with his eagle-birdie finish. He returns Sunday to play the 18th hole.
Stenson was the first to reach 12 under when he made a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-5 ninth, but what appeared to be a shoo-in birdie on the par-5 11th turned into a bogey when his second shot when just long and down a steep slope. It took him two chips to reach the green and he made bogey, and Stenson made another bogey on the 15th.
Garcia made par from deep in the woods and bogey from the middle of the fairway. He came close to a hole-in-one on the 13th hole, and went bunker-to-bunker for bogey on the 14th hole. Woods was far steadier, though certainly not spectacular. That birdie he made on No. 2 was his only one of the day.
Jeff Maggert, who also had a share of the lead at one point early in the day, bogeyed the last hole for a 66 and was the clubhouse leader at 9-under 207. Casey Wittenberg and Ryan Palmer also were at 9-under and still had to finish their rounds.
Lee Westwood whiffed a shot on his opening hole then his club nicked a pine tree on his downswing and the club went nearly a foot past the ball, leading to double bogey. Westwood was 6-under with three holes to play.
Hunter Mahan’s tee shot on the 15th hole got stuck high up in a tree, leading to double bogey, but then he rolled in an eagle putt from off the 16th green. He three-putted the 17th green for bogey and wound up with a 71, putting him at 8-under 208 with David Lynn of England, who had a 68. Lynn lost in a playoff last week at Quail Hollow.
Through all that, Woods and Garcia generated the biggest buzz.
Woods and Garcia have never had a friendly relationship. Woods was said to be put off when Garcia celebrated wildly after winning a Monday night “Battle at Bighorn” exhibition in 2000. During the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, which Woods won wire-to-wire, Garcia complained that play should have been stopped in the second round because of the rain.
“If Tiger Woods would have been out there, it would have been called,” Garcia said that day.
Saturday was the sixth time Woods and Garcia have played together in the final group on the weekend. Woods went on to win the previous five tournaments.
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