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The Players Championship

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Garcia surges to one-shot lead over Woods in TPC

By Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

The Players Championship already provides plenty of theater because of its thrill-a-minute golf course. Making it even more compelling is the star attraction of Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods, playing in the final group on the weekend for the first time in nearly seven years.

Garcia made seven straight putts – six of them for birdie – on his way to a 7-under 65 to match his best score on the TPC Sawgrass.

That gave him a one-shot lead over Woods, who again made short work of the par 5s and posted his second straight 67. Woods broke his own 36-hole record at Sawgrass by six shots and can’t find much wrong with his game at the moment.

It’s hard to call it a rivalry because it’s so one-sided.

Not only does Woods have a 77-8 margin in PGA Tour victories (and 14-0 in the majors), in the previous five times they were in the final group on the weekend on the PGA Tour, Woods has gone on to win all five times.

Asked about the possibility of playing with Woods on Saturday, Garcia said he wouldn’t see it as anything but another round of golf.

“I don’t have to measure myself against anybody,” Garcia said. “I know what I want to try to do, and any given day I can shoot a round like this and any other day he can shoot a good round and beat me. Like we always say, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

Garcia ran off five straight birdies, ending the streak with putts from 20 feet and 25 feet, and then he added a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth. Garcia, who won The Players in 2008, was at 11-under 133.

Woods looks like he’s having a good time on the course that has vexed him more than any other on the PGA Tour, and he could be the greater threat on the weekend. He now is 8-under on the par 5s this week, including a 20-foot eagle putt on No. 2 that gave him a share of lead. Woods took the outright lead with a short birdie putt on No. 4 until Garcia blazed by him with his string of birdies.

Woods was asked if there was any part of his game that made him unhappy.

“No, I’m pretty pleased with where it’s at right now,” Woods replied.

The reporter looked at him, waiting for more. Woods looked back and finally added with a grin, “Did I answer that?”

The 18 players within five shots of the lead include three current major champions – Adam Scott, Charlotte resident Webb Simpson and Rory McIlroy – along with Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson.

Ryan Palmer, who learned Thursday night that one of his best friends died in a car accident in San Antonio, had two eagles in a round of 69 and was three shots behind. Defending champion Matt Kuchar birdied three of his last four holes for a 66 and was at 7-under 137, with Scott, Mahan and Johnson.

Phil Mickelson was among 11 major champions who missed the cut. Mickelson hadn’t missed the cut at Sawgrass since 2000.

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