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Fan No More

Jul. 24, 2007     By     Comments (8)

Sergio Garcia and Gary Player both used the media tent at the 2007 Open Championship to remove their names from my "players I root for" list.

Swing ThoughtsI used to consider myself a fan of Sergio Garcia and Gary Player. Sadly, their actions at the 2007 Open Championship put an end to that.

Before the tournament even began, Gary Player saw fit to tease us with his famous "neener neener, I know a secret" announcement that "someone" was taking drugs and that "at least ten, maybe a hell of a lot more" golfers on pro tours were using drugs. I agree with Gary's basic point - he believes strongly in drug testing and the damage that could come to the sport if players are found to be using drugs to enhance their performance - but I'm disgusted that Gary, a legend of the game, chose the biggest stage he has to make the most damaging statement he's ever made about the game of golf. His actions lack the class befitting a champion of the game.

But of the two, Sergio Garcia wins the "Least Classy" award. The same year in which Sergio's spit in the middle of a cup during play ("it's no big deal" he said afterward), thrown a shoe at a marshal, and behaved immaturely at other times, Sergio gave up three-, four-, or six-shot lead in the Open Championship to forfeit yet another major championship. This time, things seemed to be working for the Spaniard, but the return of a shaky putting stroke and an even more fragile mental capacity led to his loss in a four-hole playoff.

After the win, Garcia did little to congratulate the winner. Strike one. Instead of thanking the tournament volunteers, he blamed them for his seven-minute wait in the 18th fairway (exaggerated to 15 minutes). Strike two. Finally, he flat out refused to accept any blame for his final-round 73. Instead, he blamed flagsticks, the golf gods, and everything else in between.

The facts of the matter are that Sergio shot a final-round 73. He had a six-shot lead on everyone but Steve Stricker, who was never a factor on Sunday. He claims he should "write a book on how to hit every shot perfectly and shoot +1 in a playoff," but fails to acknowledge the fat shot from the first fairway following Padraig's approach to ten feet. Garcia failed to put the club back in the bag on the 18th fairway and start his pre-shot routine over again, and he failed to account for the fact that he hit an iron off the tee, leaving himself a 3-iron into the 18th green to begin with.

Now, a lot of top golfers will occasionally use an excuse as a way of deflecting blame and maintaining confidence, but Sergio Garcia has elevated the practice to mentally unhealthy levels that borders on outright paranoia. I have no doubt in my mind that Tiger, Phil, and even Jim Furyk excel because they're capable of looking at their performances under the glaring microscope of reality, and learning to improve. Garcia cannot improve that which he fails to acknowledge exists.

I've said before that Sergio Garcia may never win a major because of his weak mind. For three days this week, the belly putter temporarily short-circuited his brain. On Sunday, the same old Sergio emerged, sputtered, and played the petulant card yet again. Garcia is now 27, yet acts much as he did nearly a decade ago when he burst onto the scene. Earlier in the week he told reporters he'd "rather have a life than an Open triumph."

He may have gotten his wish.

Discussion

  1. Shindig says:

    The way Sergio was acting on Sunday, I was half expecting him to tell us how small the difference between shooting 73 and 61 is.

    That said, if he cleans up his act, I might start rooting for him again. But he has to keep it clean for a good while first.

  2. Puttin4Bird says:

    I couldn't agree more on both points.

    Sergio and his piss poor whining REALLY turned me off on him, I had pulled for him to do well for a few years now thinking that he'd be a great rival to the top players and if he could just win a big event he'd get the boost he needs.

    Now I think of him as a little puke who needs to be slapped. I hope the fans of the events he plays in reflect my feelings as well. He cannot continue to act this way and not have some backlash from the fans. Spitting in the cup was bad enough, now he's just put the nails in the coffin as far as I'm concerned.

    Gary Player....if he doesn't have solid concrete proof he needs to shut his pie hole.

  3. JP says:

    Well stated. Yes, Sergio obviously has a problem with either his maturity or attitude or composure with the press or whatever...but he's been roasted enough.

    As I've said before about other controversial pros, notably Colin Montgomerie, they're damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they sit at the press conference and issue the stock answers to the litany of questions, they are labeled "boring," or "distant," or "phony." Such players are often urged to show more emotion. Then you get someone like Garcia who lays all of his emotions out on the table right there in the press tent (ugly as they are to see), and they get criticized again.

    I share Erik's general opinion of Sergio's actions in the aftermath of the Open, and can't say I really root for the guy. But I think the best way to handle someone like this is pretend they don't exist, until they decide to clean up the act.

  4. As I've said before about other controversial pros, notably Colin Montgomerie, they're damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they sit at the press conference and issue the stock answers to the litany of questions, they are labeled "boring," or "distant," or "phony." Such players are often urged to show more emotion. Then you get someone like Garcia who lays all of his emotions out on the table right there in the press tent (ugly as they are to see), and they get criticized again.

    I feel like Sergio could have easily shown his emotions without being so rude or flat out ignorant. There are better ways to show disappointment than to spit in the cup, play the victim, blame the golf gods or a volunteer, and outright lie about events ("hit every shot perfect").

    I expect people to be honest with themselves and the media, and don't believe I've ever criticized someone for their honesty. I may disagree with an opinion from time to time, but there's a difference between being honest and being a whiny brat.

    Sergio wasn't honest, and he didn't so much as "lay all his emotions out there" as he did act like a whiny, petulant kid. Showing emotions is fine, but poor behavior is not.

  5. Scott says:

    Steady on. The bloke had little good luck on Sunday, and he's entitled to be upset.

    You're telling me you wouldn't be filthy to have a tee shot hit the flag and rebound 20 feet from the cup in an Open playoff? Now multiply that to a level befitting the world's oldest and, to a European, most significant major.

    So he didn't sprout cliche lines and be a sweety pie in defeat? Personally I'm glad to see he was mad to have lost, and if you don't think the delayed bunker raking (complete with a wave for the crowd), flagstick rebound and lipout on the 72nd were sufficient fuel for anger, you can't have been on the receiving end of that sort of thing.

    We all hate it on a realitvely meaningless Saturday morning, so I'm prepared to accept that he'd be angered by it on Sunday at Carnoustie.

    As far as Player, golf administrators, players and fans are ignorant in the extreme if they think drugs aren't in their game and affecting outcomes.

    Good on Gary Player, a true statesman of golf globally, for making it a talking point in a week when the sporting world is focussed on golf.

    He has done more for golf away from the US than 99% of players, administrators, reporters or fans and he has earned the right to offer his frank, considered and in all likelihood correct thoughts on the game.

  6. You're telling me you wouldn't be filthy to have a tee shot hit the flag and rebound 20 feet from the cup in an Open playoff?

    Per Nick Faldo and the other commentators - he was lucky to have hit the flagstick. The ball would have rolled out well beyond where it did otherwise.

    So he didn't sprout cliche lines and be a sweety pie in defeat? Personally I'm glad to see he was mad to have lost

    He wasn't mad, though, that's the thing: he was pissy. There's a difference, and though I don't expect him to be a sweetie pie, I do expect him to be honest. How about the fat shot in the playoff? Why hit an iron off the 18th tee? How about the three-putt par earlier in the round?

    As for Gary Player, my comments were not about the message he delivered, but the means in which he delivered them. There were better ways than the "neener neener" approach.

  7. JP Bouffard says:

    I get your point about him being whiny and pissy, and the distinction between his behavior with the press and the expression of emotion. But here's how I look at that:

    I guess the problem with letting emotions show is that you never know what's going to come out--when you're laying yourself bare, the display isn't always pretty. Not saying it can't be, but the more you open yourself up, the greater chance there is of letting something ugly come out.

    He's a kid with tremendous talent who can't handle the fact that he can't win the big ones...he hates ever losing, probably. He's also immature. When the anger over losing the Open that you lead for virtually the entire 72 holes gets passed through the filter of this kind of person, you get pissy, petulant responses.

    You're 100% right that it's virtually impossible to ever root for a guy who acts like this. But it's good theater to watch it, and I'd still rather have this than "I took alot of good things away from this tournament, and just feel thankful that I was in a position to win it." At least I think so anyway.

  8. Cornbread says:

    In retrosect... it seems Gary Player was correct. You guys should keep your opinions to yourself.

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