The 2013 Players Championship is for the taking for Tiger Woods on Sunday. As brilliantly as he's been putting all year long, there is little reason he shouldn't erase his current two-shot deficit to emerge victorious.
Woods leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting this season, which has already driven him to three wins on the year. After two rounds of 67, a weather delay and an off stretch of putting stagnated his progress.
A three-putt at the par-three third hole on Saturday was Woods' first of the week, and it stymied the momentum he generated with a birdie at the previous hole.
That was also the site of the biggest controversy of the tournament thus far. Paired with Sergio Garcia—a player Woods doesn't get along with—TPC Sawgrass' No. 2 fostered a truly unique situation.
As Garcia prepared to shoot for the green in two on the par-five, Woods was deliberating what to do, since he had driven it in a spot of bother about 50 yards left of the fairway. When he decided to pull a fairway metal and take a hack at the putting surface himself, the crowd cheered.
Unfortunately for Garcia, it was in the middle of his backswing. Garcia bogeyed, while Woods birdied. When the Spaniard voiced his displeasure publicly during the weather delay, it led to a spat between the two.
ESPN's Bob Harig logs Garcia's inital statement, followed by Woods' response:
I wouldn't say that [Woods] didn't see that I was ready, but you do have a feel when the other guy is going to hit, and right as I was in the top of my backswing, I think he must have pulled like a 5-wood or a 3-wood and obviously everybody started screaming. So that didn't help very much.
Obviously, [Garcia] doesn't know all the facts. The marshals told me he had already hit. I pulled the club and played my shot. Then I hear his comments afterward. Not really surprising that he's complaining about something.
Woods' round fell flat with 12 consecutive pars, but if that doesn't get his competitive juices flowing, it's hard to imagine what else could do it more effectively.
Plus, Woods has been capitalizing on par-fives extremely well this week so far, as Golf Channel's Jason Sobel highlighted:
Tiger Woods posts second straight 67. He's 8-under on the eight par-5 holes so far. That's usually the secret ingredient for his victories.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) May 10, 2013
With the aforementioned birdie at No. 2, Woods moved to minus-nine, and since he didn't take advantage of the subsequent two, conventional wisdom says he's due for something magnificent to end his third round.
The pairing has hit their tee shots on No. 15, and that is where they will resume early Sunday morning. If Woods can get off to a good start—and perhaps possibly find the green in two on the par-five 16th—he could easily apply pressure to current leader David Lingmerth.
Who has the best chance of defeating Tiger Woods on Sunday?
At age 25 and coming off of five consecutive missed cuts, there isn't much reason to believe that Lingmerth will hold on, even though The Players consistently produces surprise winners—and has had 19 different champions in the past 19 years.
Considering the form Woods is in with regard to every facet of his game, this would be the time for that trend to be broken.
Winning at a venue where he has just one victory in 15 previous attempts would reaffirm Woods' dominance.
Considering the historically shaky putting of Garcia and fellow joint second-place competitor Henrik Stenson and the inexperience of Lingmerth, conditions seem ideal for Woods to close out his 78th PGA Tour win.
Note: All statistics and information, unless otherwise indicated, are courtesy of PGATour.com.