Is Tiger Woods no longer a shadow of his former self? (Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

This time, there was no lapse in concentration, no loss of his putting touch at a critical moment.

Tiger Woods, at the end of the day Sunday, stood alone atop the Players Championship leaderboard, winning for the fourth time in seven tournaments this year. Woods, a two-stroke winner at the TPC Sawgrass, now has 78 victories in 300 PGA Tour starts and, after two years in which he couldn’t buy a win, he’s on the kind of roll he hasn’t been on since 2000.

And ... that's tee shot No. 3 into the drink for Sergio "SergiH2O" Garcia. (Chris O'Meara / AP) And … that’s tee shot No. 3 into the drink for “SergiH2O” Garcia. (Chris O’Meara / AP)

“Am I surprised? No. I know a lot of people in this room thought I was done,” he told the media, with a contented smile, afterward, “But I’m not.”

He had only a fleeting stumble, when his tee shot at 14 landed in the water. He took a drop, regained his balance after a double-bogey and managed to win for the first time in 14 appearances on the Ponte Vedra, Fla., course. Later, he jokingly apologized for raising his mother’s blood pressure on that hole. He did a lot of smiling and joking after winning with girlfriend Lindsey Vonn looking on.

“It was fast and difficult,” Woods said of Sunday’s conditions, “and I hit it so good today, it was fun. I hit it high, low, left to right, right to left, whatever I wanted, except for that tee shot at 14.”

And then there was what happened to the man who emerged as an irritant on Saturday. Sergio Garcia, who turned an icy relationship with Woods into a modern-day Battling Bickersons, disintegrated in an epic, “Tin Cup”-like meltdown on the 17th hole, putting not one but two shots into the drink. He managed a quadruple-bogey 7 and, for good measure, a double-bogey on 18 for a 76 and a tie for eighth place at seven under.

Tiger Woods’s girlfriend, Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, watched the final round. Note that she’s out of her knee brace. (Richard Heathcote / Getty Images)

So much for the mano-a-mano playoff everyone was hoping for after a skirmish of words erupted Saturday when Garcia accused Woods of distracting him on a shot. Garcia, who has never won a major, and Woods, who is still seeking his 15th, now head for the U.S. Open next month. Neither had any regrets about their weekend sniping.

“It sounds like I was the bad guy here,” Garcia said Sunday of his Saturday claim that Woods had distracted him on a shot. “I was the victim. I don’t have any regrets of anything.”

And Woods? He put his money where his mouth is. Beating Garcia meant less to him than winning. “We just go out there and play,” Woods said. “I had an opportunity to win the golf tournament when I was tied for the lead today. And I thought I handled the situation well.”


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