Sergio Garcia stands at the crossroads of his 2013 season. He watched Tiger Woods win the Players Championship one day after their longtime feud was reignited and just moments after he sent two balls into the water on the 71st hole.
The double splash down dropped Garcia from a chance to win the marquee tournament into a tie for seventh place. How he responds to the adversity will decide whether he can resume his strong start to the season or starts to fade.
Garcia has made 11 starts between the PGA and European Tours in 2013. He's finished inside the top 20 in all but one of those events. The only time he failed to reach that mark was due to a withdrawal in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
No missed cuts. No terrible weekend performances (at least prior to the 17th hole of the Players). Just a solid season from a player who's battled inconsistency throughout his career.
There are three majors left on the schedule. If Garcia can maintain that form throughout the summer, he should find himself in the mix for his first major title. It's easier said than done, especially after the attention his feud with Woods received.
It all started on the second hole of their third-round pairing. Garcia hit a terrible shot and immediately motioned toward Woods, who was buried in the gallery after an errant tee shot. The eventual champion's decision to pick his club caused a stir during Garcia's shot.
As seen in the video, Garcia expressed his displeasure during a rain delay and Woods later shot back by saying he wasn't surprised his playing partner was complaining about something. Thus, a firestorm of attention was set off.
By the end of the third round, which came early on Sunday morning, Garcia's lead was gone. It marked the 13th time in 20 PGA Tour groupings in which Woods got the better of Garcia. Add in four ties and it's clearly been a one-sided rivalry.
The Spanish star deserves credit for bouncing back to keep it close through the final round before melting down on 17. After Woods played a conservative line on the island hole, Garcia attacked the pin and—in what will become an infamous moment—found the water twice.
Surprising contender David Lingmerth couldn't convert a long birdie putt on the last and Woods won his fourth tournament of the season. Garcia had faltered once again.
The key for Garcia is putting it behind him and moving on. For somebody that isn't exactly known for overcoming mental hurdles well, it's the type of weekend that could stick with him for a while and ruin a promising season.
He's got a week off before returning to the European Tour for the BMW PGA Championship, according to his official site. He can use that time to vent any remaining frustrations on the range before refocusing on the next event.
He must work hard to ensure he doesn't let an overblown rift and a few bad holes turn the rest of 2013 into a nightmare. It's a chance for him to illustrate the mental toughness necessary to keep up with Woods when he's at his best, which he is right now.
Garcia will be in the spotlight next week at Wentworth. How he handles it will be the first clear indication of whether he can recover from a forgettable couple of days.