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May 14

Sergio Garcia – Arrested Development

Sergio Garcia – Woe Is Me

I am a long-time fan of Spanish golfers as a national tradition. I viewed Seve Ballesteros as a hero for his ruthless ability to concentrate, his iron nerves  and his general “go for it” quality. I watched Olazabel win the Masters, and have enjoyed the recent emergence of several Spanish women on the LPGA tour. Maybe it’s just a fan putting the face on it that he wants to see, but I always thought the Spanish golf tradition had a certain nobility all its own, and looked forward to more of the same in Sergio Garcia.

garcia 2 I feel certain that Garcia has appointed himself a member of that tradition, and indeed, his talent is evident – but “Mr. Garcia, I watched Seve Ballesteros, and you’re no Seve Ballesteros.”
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Born in 1980, Mr. Garcia would be at or approaching the age of thirty three, but to date, there’s little sign of it. After a line of club-throwing, cup-spitting, microphone shattering incidents, a romance novel’s quota of “woe is me,” “I’m a victim,” and more whining than my grandchildren, I am sick to death of him, and don’t really care if I ever watch him play again.

Ironically, in throwing away the Players Championship, a tournament he won a few years back, via two balls in the water late in the fourth round, he controlled himself better than usual. He didn’t break anything, and actually admitted that he was holding the club that sent the fateful shots to Davy Jones Locker. That’s a step in the right direction, I suppose.
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Garcia was all potential as an amateur, and every sign pointed to greatness. He was the youngest player to win the European Amateur. He has been a Ryder Cup star and has experienced near-misses at the Open and PGA. The game of golf has made him a very rich man, and yet he is a disappointment to those who predicted more, and most likely to himself.

Seeing Garcia and Woods paired together at the top of the leaderboard didn’t look much like a maturity festival, but it did portend some great golf. Woods is not a paragon of refinement, either, but somewhere along the line, even he got it that when called by the angels to own those trophies, one still has to show up and win them on the course.

sergio 1Tiger has made some progress of late in the personal department, at least in outward behavior, but we’re still waiting on Garcia, who seemingly never passes up a chance for one last swing at adolescence. History is full of talented people who dressed their childishness in being a “free-spirit,” being filled with “competitive fire” and as Garcia is fond of saying, “being true to himself.” They seemed to believe that if they grew up, they wouldn’t be interesting anymore. Maybe that’s true, although growing up a bit might have meant a few more victories for Garcia. He has become the punch line for late round “choke” jokes, and the big money always goes against him holding together on Sunday.

The various tours have little apparent interest in reigning in their more colorful characters. On one hand, why bother? Every group has them, and sometimes they are among the upper talents. That makes them too interesting to restrain, so rather than losing the ratings, they allow the game to be trampled by adult children with sticks.

If Sergio Garcia wants to breathe the rarified air of Seve Ballesteros, he’ll have to trade in the disrespect for his professional environment and learn what really made Seve great. He’ll have to trade in his mental fragility and embrace some Tigerish toughness. He’ll have to give up the “wunderkind” label – that’s over, way over – and it would be nice to see him be “true” to a better part of himself, one that is, as yet, undiscovered.

 

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.