I 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.