Former Masters Champion Garcia Needs to Get to the Bottom of Dysfunction
The golf world was ‘treated’ this past week to a blast from the past, when Sergio Garcia reminded us of his days as an adolescent star. We remember those days, but we didn’t expect to see them in quite the full force from a man pushing forty. As the former Masters champion made an instant reversion to his teens at the Saudi International, damaging five holes worth of putting surface, with players still coming up behind, we had to wonder at what’s going on in that brain. Dragging cleated feet on a few greens and leaving a divot in another brought about all the usual condemnations. Sizing up the incident that began with a bunker tantrum came from other players, and were correct in terms of what happened. However, the underlying condition that made Garcia go berserk had a sad, pathetic component that made me worry about his overall health.
Fortunately for Garcia, Saudi Arabia didn’t go old world on him for destroying the kingdom’s property. I doubt that a Saudi jail is a fun experience, and it wasn’t long ago that they chopped off limbs as punishment. European Tour Chief Keith Pelley was waiting for Garcia at the end in hopes of an enlightening conversation, but his other hand held a disqualification from the tournament. That was also a lucky break for Garcia – the chief could have done a lot more.
I remember such tantrums in my early golfing days, although I didn’t damage property. I was also around eight years old. Knowing such people in other walks of life, I have heard all the excuses. Among my favorites is “Hey! I come from a passionate culture!” That may be a reason, but it’s not an excuse. I know a lot of Spaniards – passionate yes, out of control and disrespectful, no. I thought that the Masters win might have released some of Garcia’s long pent-up pressure, but apparently not. Why has it happened now after a long stretch of regaining the public’s adulation? People who don’t even like Garcia, and never have, wept as he came up the 18th at Augusta. Why would someone throw that away in the Saudi International?
There is a surprising lack of video to corroborate the damage to the greens, but whether there has been a burying of the evidence is unclear at this point. However, other tournament sponsors and tours themselves must begin to ask questions among their leadership as to what they will do in a similar circumstance. Inappropriate behavior ending in a disqualification is one thing, but where would vandalism to the course lead for the U.S. or Canada? Those who did it in my childhood were asked to leave for good. Adults in the same town would be charged and prosecuted. Vandalize a course in Ohio or Vancouver, and a night in jail plus restitution wouldn’t seem out of bounds for me. Add whatever length of suspension you like. Courses are owned by individuals, clubs, states, provinces, etc. You’re in their house. Even if you’re a star, you’re still their house. Be a good guest or don’t come back. Is that so illogical? Are you embarrassing the tour in which you hold membership? Would it be so heinous for them to take you out of the game for a while as you seek to sort yourself out? Should there be a rehab component to golf, as there is for more physically aggressive sports?
Most of us are not qualified to diagnose what’s going on with Garcia, but if he’s going to continue playing on the international tours, someone had better be consulted. An apology, and an “it will never happen again” are no longer convincing. The help he gets might end up to be more important than the tournament he might win.