News & Opinion

Saudis can’t get rid of Garcia

As if maintaining greens in desert weren’t enough of a challenge, simmering Spaniard must deliver a make-good appearance in 2020 Saudi International

To say that Sergio Garcia is an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, shrouded in guesswork and covered with clouds of doubt would claim some level of understanding of the mercurial Spaniard. The truth is that no one understands Sergio – not players, not the media, not those closest to him and most probably, not even Garcia himself.

That’s because he can go along for extended periods of time looking entirely normal and well-adjusted and then, inexplicably, do something so wildly out-of-bounds that it leaves fans and observers of the game shocked and dumbfounded, all without some kind of explanation, logical or otherwise.

Sergio Garcia must make amends for his ‘serious misconduct’ last year in Saudi Arabia.

Garcia will play in the 2020 Saudi International on Jan. 20-Feb. 2, ordered to do so by the European Tour and without receiving an appearance fee (“In other golf news,” Nov. 26). Why this is significant is that Garcia was controversially disqualified from the inaugural Saudi International in February after damaging up to five greens during a fit of uncontrolled anger in the third round, ostensibly about the condition of the greens.

The European Tour disqualified Garcia from the event for “serious misconduct” but, without explanation, did not discipline Garcia via suspension or a fine. The tour even allowed Garcia to keep his appearance fee that was estimated at $640,000. Apparently, Garcia is that important to the European Tour, therefore untouchable.

Reaction from the players was almost universal. Brooks Koepka, who was in the field that week, said in a podcast, “That's just Sergio acting like a child. It's unfortunate that he's got to do that and complain. Everybody's got to play the same golf course. I didn't play very good, but you didn't really see anybody else doing that. You're 40 years old, so you've got to grow up eventually."

Garcia, who will turn 40 in January, blamed something other than his own immaturity.

“I received some very emotional, personal news earlier that week that didn’t help. It was in the back of my mind. As I became frustrated on the course, everything erupted,” Garcia told Golf Channel the following week.

Garcia always has been an emotional player who has displayed an overabundance of immaturity, commonly blaming a conspiracy of other players, tournament officials and the golf gods for his lack of success, particularly in major championships.

He even told reporters at the 2012 Masters that he wasn’t good enough to win majors.

"I don't have the thing I need to have," Garcia said to Spanish-speaking media. In 13 years, I've come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place."

He was asked about the comments the following day. "Do you think I lie when I talk?" he said.

"Everything I say, I say it because I feel it. If I didn't mean it, I couldn't stand here and lie like a lot of the guys. If I felt like I could win, I would do it. Unfortunately at the moment, unless I get really lucky in one of the weeks, I can't really play much better than I played this week, and I'm going to finish 13th or 15th."

Garcia reportedly once threw a shoe at a tournament official in Europe and spat into a cup on a green at a WGC event at Doral. He wasn’t disciplined for either incident.

But in 2017, Garcia shocked the golf world – and perhaps himself – by winning the Masters, beating Justin Rose on the first hole of a playoff. Most people expected Rose to win the playoff, leaving Garcia to sulk, once again blaming his fate.

Three months later, Garcia and former Golf Channel personality Angela Akins were married, and those in the know thought that he would find some peace and maturity, especially when the couple welcomed their first child in March 2018.

Garcia now had everything that he could have wanted, it seemed – a family, a green jacket and a place in golf history.

But in the opening round of the 2018 Masters, Garcia reverted to bad form.

He was 1 over par on the par-5 15th hole, with 206 yards to the hole for his second shot. He hit 6-iron, and the ball reached the front of the green – but not far enough by a foot. The ball rolled back, into the water.

He took his penalty drop and hit his fourth shot from 90 yards. That one and three more found the water and he had to hole a 10-foot putt for a 13, on his way to an 81.

Only Garcia knows why he didn’t take his medicine and hit his fourth shot into the middle of the green instead of dumping four consecutive sand-wedge shots into the pond.

Whether it’s the real reason, it’s the genuine cause: No matter how Garcia looks on the outside, somewhere in the recesses of his mind, he’s still a petulant child. And it doesn’t appear that will ever change.