Garcia must control emotions

Sergio Garcia should have known better than to allow Tiger Woods to get under his skin. Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Sergio Garcia is never going to be a great rival to Tiger Woods. That was still a possibility for him in 1999, when he battled Tiger at Medinah in the final round of the PGA Championship.

For Garcia, Tiger is a nagging reminder that he's never won a major or been No. 1 in the world.

On Saturday, the 33-year-old Spaniard got his 20th head-to-head meeting in a tournament with the 14-time major champion in the third round of The Players Championship.

It was contentious between them from the start. They barely acknowledged each other on the first tee. At the second hole, Sergio got angry when the gallery cheered over Tiger's club selection in the middle of his second shot to the par 5.

After play was called shortly before 8 p.m. Eastern on Saturday night with the two players in the 15th fairway, Garcia scolded Tiger for what he considered a breach of etiquette by pulling his club when he was over his ball.

"It's very simple," Garcia said. "It happens to me in Spain. It happens to [Tiger] everywhere he goes. Sometimes you have to pay attention to what's going on if the other guy is hitting and you do something the crowd is going to respond and affect the other player."

Earlier, Tiger said that he only pulled his club because the marshal told him that Sergio had already hit, but that he wasn't "surprised to see [Sergio] complaining about something."

To that Sergio said, "At least I'm true to myself. I know what I'm doing and he can do whatever he wants."

On a day when a little-known 25-year-old Swedish rookie named David Lingmerth emerged to take a two-shot lead with the third round to resume at 7:15 a.m. on Sunday, the feud between Tiger and Sergio dared to overshadow what promises to be an exciting ending to The Players.

Sergio was looking for a fight and he needed just two holes to find it. Instead of focusing on his game in one of the biggest tournaments in the sport, he allowed himself to be distracted by something unintended by Tiger.

After 14 years on tour, Garcia is too experienced to be acting like a spoiled child on the golf course. He can't hold Tiger's fans responsible for his poor fairway wood at the second hole. It's not fair to the rest of the players who have endured all kinds of interruptions through the years from Tiger's galleries.

If Tiger exhibits poor etiquette on the golf course, such as the time he was fined in 2011 for spitting on a Dubai green, he should be held accountable. But Sergio was just being nitpicky in this case.

But as Tiger pointed out, it's not surprising that Sergio is complaining about something. After he lost the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie in a playoff to Padraig Harrington, he said, "I'm playing against a lot of guys out there, more than the field."

Last year after shooting a 75 in the third round of the Masters, Garcia said that after "13 years I've come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place."

You don't get to Sergio's level in the game without showing some self-control and discipline. He's one of the most talented players in the game. But he hasn't always shown the maturity of a player of his experience.

In many ways, he has succeeded despite his failings.

This was evident on Saturday as he held his game together through the pressure and ruckus surrounding his pairing with Tiger. At the 10th hole, he made an amazing par after a poor drive. While he had three bogeys through 14 holes, he is just 1 over par on his round and two shots off the lead.

Garcia is in a good position to win his second Players championship, but he must control his emotions and get Tiger out of his head.

I've always respected Sergio for his earnestness. "At least I'm true to myself." That's an ode to Hamlet.

"This above all:

To thine own self be true,

For it must follow as dost the night the day

That canst not then be false to any man."

But Sergio was wrong to start a fight with Tiger on Saturday.

On Sunday, he should try to put all the bad feelings outside about Tiger -- both imagined and real -- and play the best golf he can.

To thine own self be true.