Sergio Garcia’s latest controversy
When I mentioned in my 2014 Golf Wishes post that I’d hoped that Sergio Garcia would make headlines for his play and not his mouth, this wasn’t exactly what I was referring to.
For those who are unaware, Garcia is playing this week in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, his standard year opening event. On the 18th green, which was Garcia’s ninth of the day, he appeared to tap down a mark of some kind. You can see the video below:
The whole scene is very reminiscent of the rules flap that Simon Dyson was embroiled in recently, which I’ve covered on a pair of occasions, so obviously the European Tour was going to investigate when they were alerted to the situation, allegedly from a call-in viewer.
The rules state that if Garcia had tapped down a pitch mark, there would be no penalty. However, if it was determined that it was a spike mark, Garcia would have been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard, as he was made aware of the situation after he had completed his round. After discussing things with European Tour chief referee John Paramor, it was decided that it was indeed a pitch mark and that there would be no further investigation needed. In a statement released this morning, the European Tour said: “John Paramor is satisfied with Sergio’s version of the matter and that is the end of the issue.”
So, we’re done here, right? Not quite.
When it comes to Garcia, it seems like we’re never done and sure enough we have some differing viewpoints on the situation by two of the golf media’s more high profile names. John Huggan, writing for Golf Digest, took the stance that once Paramor cleared Garcia of any wrongdoing, that the websites who reported the story owed Garcia an apology for calling Garcia a cheat, taking a shot mostly at the American coverage of the story. Geoff Shackelford took up the opposite end of things, running through a list of incidents that Garcia has been apart of that don’t exactly show him in the most flattering of light.
For what it’s worth, Garcia has made what appears to be an elevated amount of “mistakes” since he first became known to the world on a global level back in 1999, and while I generally believe that Garcia has been unfairly labelled at times in North America, he obviously hasn’t been a saint over here either. The cheater label though is a bad one, and as we saw with Tiger Woods earlier this year, it’s pretty much the worst thing that you can call a golfer and in fairness to Garcia, the things that Shackelford mentions don’t lend any credence to the idea that Garcia has run afoul of the rules in his time as a pro. It’s also worth pointing out that Shackelford never labels Garcia as a cheater either. He was just merely pointing out that Garcia’s reputation isn’t exactly sparkling, despite what some people, especially those in the European media, would have you believe.
There’s no point in turning this into a discussion on the Rules of Golf, or on the ability of fans to call in a ruling that may or may not be accurate. I think what this comes down to is a matter of who you are inclined to believe. From the video above, I don’t think Garcia did anything to enhance his position or to give himself an advantage, and as long as Paramor believed that was Garcia was telling him was the truth, that’s good enough for me. If there was an actual violation here, then the book should be thrown at him, but obviously Paramor didn’t think that was the case and decided that it was time to move on.
Garcia did comment on the situation, as per Huggan’s piece:
“Cheating is something I would never do. But it does feel bad to be related to that word, when there is no proof and when I’ve never cheated in my life. It hurt a little bit. It’s fine to call in when you can see that someone has cheated. But to say that about someone without knowing all the facts is wrong. Being related to that word is the most disgusting thing that can happen to any golfer. So it was a little disappointing. I’m happy it was cleared up with John and I was able to play today.”
I’ll say this about Garcia: in a game where players are often dull and boring, he keeps things interesting.