ATLANTA - The cheers weren't as loud, but Sergio Garcia had heard them before.
Six days ago at the Ryder Cup, he was helpless as Anthony Kim fired at flags and birdied nearly half his holes in a 5-and-4 romp that revved up the gallery during an American victory.
It looked like more of the same early Saturday at the Tour Championship, especially when Kim made everything in sight to build a three-shot lead on the front nine at East Lake. This time, fortunes turned in the Spaniard's favor.
Garcia kept hitting good putts until enough of them went in that he turned a three-shot deficit into a three-shot lead with a 3-under 67, leaving him poised to become only the third player to capture The Players Championship and the Tour Championship in the same year.
'We're moving in the right direction,' Garcia said, referring as much to his game as a third round that put him at 8-under 202, giving him a three-shot cushion over Phil Mickelson (69) and Kim (72).
Kim couldn't go at too many flags because he was busy escaping from the rough.
The 23-year-old American hit only four fairways, and his wildness caught up with him. One tee shot hit a fan in the forehead, sending him to the hospital with a 2-inch gash that left blood on the grass. Another shot found the water. Yet another bounced off corporate tents lining the 16th fairway.
'I'm speechless how bad I hit the driver,' Kim said.
He was at a loss for words when he saw the damage he inflicted on the ninth hole. His wayward shot hit 48-year-old David Whitfield on the fly, splitting open his forehead. Whitfield was taken to a hospital, but he never lost consciousness and tests were negatives.
Kim gave Whitfield's wife a golf ball that he signed with a note: 'Sorry.'
Garcia got up-and-down from the bunker for a birdie to catch Kim at the turn, then took the lead for good with a birdie on the par-5 15th as Kim continued to sputter.
'Obviously, AK wasn't on his A-game,' Garcia said. 'I still feel like he scrambled nicely. He got some putts going in the beginning. I managed to make some birdies and played solidly.'
Those two young stars in the final group of the third round finally brought some energy to the post-Ryder Cup blues at East Lake, although anyone hopeful of a rematch would have been sorely disappointed.
They were laughing and chatting from the start, especially on the first green when Garcia asked if he should move his ball mark.
'He gave me of those looks like, 'I don't need to hit it that far left.' And he actually hit the left side of the coin,' Garcia said. 'It was one of those funny things that happen.'