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Primo pairing at Sawgrass today

Sergio, Tiger in final group, 1 shot apart

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Sergio Garcia

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Sergio Garcia

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Sergio Garcia had one of those stretches where it felt like every putt was going to drop. He needed every one of them Friday for a 7-under 65 to match his best score on the TPC Sawgrass and take a one-shot lead over Tiger Woods at The Players Championship.

Next up is Woods and Garcia in the final group today, which is sure to add even attention to the stage that is Sawgrass.

Garcia didn't miss a fairway and putted for birdie on every hole on the back nine and wasn't gaining any ground. That changed on the front nine when he made seven straight putts -- five of them from about 15 feet or longer -- to race by Woods and into the lead.

"When you start going like that, obviously it feels great," said Garcia, who was at 11-under 133. "Everything seems kind of clearer in your head. You seem to see the break. You seem to feel like everything is a little bit easier, a little bit smoother, and you hit the putt and it manages to go in.

"If it was easy, we would have plenty of those, but it's not," he said. "Enjoy them while you have them."

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. Already a three-time winner this year on tour, Woods has rarely put himself in trouble and had his second straight 67.

Woods was at 134, his best 36-hole total by six shots at this tournament, including the year he won.

He tied for the lead with a 5-wood into 20 feet for eagle on the par-5 second hole, and then took the lead alone with a short birdie on the fourth. But it didn't last long. Garcia, playing in the group ahead of him, ran off five straight birdies, finishing that stretch with a 20-foot putt on No. 5 and a 25-footer on No. 6.

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, both won by Woods.

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."

Woods again handled the par 5s and now has played them in 8-under for the week, including his eagle. What impressed him more was his overall game. He 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 Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2013 C7

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