May 12, 2017: Sergio Garcia has won and lost THE PLAYERS at the infamous par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass, creating a love-hate relationship with the island green. India’s Anirban Lahiri had a tough day with a score of three-over-par 75 to start with in the first round.
In Thursday’s opening round Sergio added to the love side of the equation, making the eighth ace on the hole in the history of the tournament.
Garcia guided his 52-degree wedge expertly towards the pin, spinning the ball slightly back into the cup much to the delight of the late afternoon crowd.
“It was nice to see it bounce and kind of spin back into the hole,” he said with a smile.
“It is tricky. It’s not easy. It’s probably one of the hardest 125- or 140-yard shots that we get all year with the greens being firm like they are.”
In 2008 Garcia entered a playoff with Paul Goydos and watched as the American rinsed his tee shot in the water.
Knowing a good shot would lock up a signature win he took dead aim and stiffed his shot to within a few feet at the dangerous Sunday pin. Trophy secured.
But then there is the hate.
He has six career balls in the water but it was 2013, when he dunked the ball into the drink twice on Sunday, that the affair turned sour.
Tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at the time Garcia walked off with a quadruple bogey 7, stealing away any chance he had of downing his longtime rival.
The newly minted Masters Tournament champion has resurrected his stat line at the hole in the last three years, now having played it in a cumulative 6 under on his last 13 tries.
The ace came at a good time, given the leading THE PLAYERS money winner was 3 over on his round at the time. It was the second ace of Garcia’s PGA TOUR career.
“I needed it after the start I had. It kind of made quite a poor round into – not a great round but a decent round,” he said.
After posting his 1-over 73 the Spaniard sits six off the pace, but put a positive spin on the number given it was his first competitive round since donning the Green Jacket.
“I felt like I was a little bit up in the clouds, and when I woke up, I was 4 over after 6,” Garcia admitted.
“That didn’t help, but then I started hitting better shots, started hitting better putts, and at least we were able to salvage a round there at the end that if we have a good day tomorrow, we still have a solid chance going into the weekend.
“Tomorrow I want to come out there, concentrate like I should, and if I can manage to shoot 4 or 5 under tomorrow, I’m still going to have a great chance. An under-par round tomorrow will be key to get back in it.”