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Garcia uses hot putter to edge past Woods at Players

| Friday, May 10, 2013, 9:28 p.m.
REUTERS
Sergio Garcia reacts after scoring birdie on the eighth green during the second round of The Players Championship on Friday, May 10, 2013.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — 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-par 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 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 this 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, Woods has won 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. So there are going to be good days and not-so-good days, so just got to enjoy the good ones as much as possible.”

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 is 8-under on the par 5s this week, including a 20-foot eagle putt on No. 2 that gave him a share of the 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 said.

Woods and Garcia have played together on big stages — Bethpage Black, Royal Liverpool — with a big edge for Woods. They first were linked when the Spaniard was 19 and gave Woods all he could handle at Medinah in the 1999 PGA Championship. They were paired in the final round of the 2002 U.S. Open and 2006 British Open, the year Garcia dressed all in yellow.

But with the tournament only halfway over, this is far more than a duel between Woods and Garcia.

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

Westwood chipped in from 100 feet for eagle on the 11th hole and was atop the leaderboard until making pars on his last eight holes. He had a 66 and was two shots behind along with Kevin Chappell (66) and Stenson.

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