Breaking Down Sergio Garcia's Epic Meltdown at 2013 Players Championship

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IMay 12, 2013

May 12, 2013; Ponte Vedra Beach,  FL, USA; Sergio Garcia reacts after birdieing the 13th hole in the final round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass - Stadium Course.  Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Garcia stepped to the iconic 17th tee at TPC Sawgrass tied with Tiger Woods for the lead. He left the tee box with his chances of a title long gone, but in a collapse that was still evolving. 

After three tee shots found the water in his final two holes, Garcia dropped from tied for first at 13-under to tied for eighth at seven-under, and he did so all while watching his nemesis, Woods, pull away to the win.

The sudden turn of events robbed the fans of a potentially unforgettable playoff, as Garcia and Woods famously added to a history of discord while playing together in the third round Saturday. In case you missed that bit of drama, here is Garcia on the incident.  

In short, Garcia felt Woods was participating in a bit of gamesmanship by getting the gallery worked up right as he was in getting ready for his shot.

As Woods explains it, this was more a matter poor communication than it was gamesmanship. ESPN's Bob Harig passed along this reply from Tiger: 

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.

All of this percolated overnight as the two sat tied, waiting to conclude their weather-interrupted third round. Both finished up their third round going one-under, and without further incident. 

While they were tied to begin Round 4, the two were not paired together as David Lingmerth also sat at 11-under to make it a three-way tie for first to begin the final round. Lingmerth and Garcia comprised the day's final group with Woods playing in the group in front of them. 

This was alright with Garcia. Golf Channel's Rex Hoggard and Will Gray passed along these nuggets from Garcia: 

However, it looked like there might be more head-to-head action in store for these two as Garcia hit the 17th tee. Those dreams quickly turned soggy. 

Garcia made the decision to play the 17th aggressively, which is a risky play given the front-right location of the pin.  

He took out a pitching wedge and then struck his shot slightly heavy. There is no margin for error on the hole, and Garcia wasn't even really that close. Had he not been quite as far right, he would have still been in the bunker. 

Garcia decided to go from the tee box rather than with a drop. Hitting three, he knew he would have to get up and down from the tee to save a bogey and even have a chance at getting into a playoff. He stuck with the wedge, and only hit it slightly better. Again, he was too short and wound up wet. 

Sticking to his guns, Garcia went again from the tee for a third time. This time, he aimed safer, to the left of the hole. Of course, he drilled it pin high. Had he hit that shot where he was aiming his first two, he would have had little work left. 

As it was, he left himself a lengthy putt and needed two mores strokes to earn a seven on the par-three. 

Said Garcia on his first tee shot from No. 17, via The New York Times' Karen Crouse, "I just underhit it a little bit. I felt with a little bit of adrenaline and stuff I didn’t want to shoot it over the green."

Apparently, Sergio overestimates the power of his adrenaline, because he wasn't even close to overshooting the green.  

Onto the 18th, and more time in the water. While likely still reeling from his quadruple bogey, Garcia stepped up to the tee box and dropped another in the drink as he left his shot too far left. 

At this point, Garcia had to be dreaming of just getting off the course, which he did without losing any more golf balls. He wound up with a double on the 18th, and with what has to be psychological scar. 

This was an epic collapse. While the Players Championship is not a major, it is widely viewed as the unofficial fifth major. While Garcia has proven he can handle the pressure of this tournament by taking the title in 2008, he's just added another major chapter in the book that states he can't handle going toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods.