Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler and gentlemanly play
No matter where he goes or what he does, Sergio Garcia seems to makes headlines. In case you missed what happened yesterday, here’s a quick recap.
On the sixth hole of his match against Rickie Fowler, Garcia needed to call an official over for a ruling because there was a beehive right beside his ball near the sixth green, which is considered a “dangerous situation” under the Rules of Golf. The ruling took longer than it probably should have, and Garcia felt bad about that. So, on the next hole, Garcia had about six feet left for his par, while Fowler had to make one from about seventeen feet to avoid bogey. Garcia, still feeling bad about the length of the ruling on the previous hole, suggested to Fowler that they give it the “good-good” treatment and walk off the green, heading to the next tee. A video of the event is below:
Now, this is highly unusual behaviour obviously, as anyone who has watched any match play event will tell you. Yes, players “give” each other putts all the time in match play as a courtesy, but those concessions are rarely anything more than three feet, so one that was nearly seventeen feet is usually cause for finishing the hole. The interesting thing to me though was what happened after the two walked off the seventh green.
At that point, Garcia was still two up on Fowler, which is not an insignificant lead through seven holes. He would win the next hole to go three up through eight, but he wouldn’t win another hole for the rest of the match, eventually losing to Fowler on the 18th, and all anyone was talking about was what happened on the seventh. I mentioned on Twitter right after it happened that it didn’t make sense to me, but it did when Garcia addressed it after the match was over. From D.J. Piehowski’s column on PGATour.com:
“I don’t regret it at all. I think that this is a gentleman’s game and lately, it hasn’t felt like it’s been like that. This is the way I was brought up by my dad. I felt like my drop on 6 took too much time. If I would have been in his position, I wouldn’t have enjoyed waiting so long to hit my birdie putt after the great shot that he hit. I thought that was the only thing I could do on seven to make myself feel better and not feel guilty about anything.”
Of course, that didn’t stop people from immediately jumping to other conclusions, notably that it was a bizarre concession, and that he wouldn’t have done the same thing were he playing in the Ryder Cup or against Tiger Woods. The worst one may have come from those who suggested that even when he tries to do something nice, Garcia ends up doing the wrong thing. It’s not unusual for the golf media to take a bite out of Garcia, and in a lot of cases, he deserves every bit of it, but in this instance it seems to be pretty misguided. Ask yourself these questions when thinking about what happened yesterday:
- If this had happened in Thursday’s Peter Hanson/Victor Dubuisson match, would anyone be talking about it?
- If someone with a more positive reputation with the media had done this, say Matt Kuchar or Graeme McDowell, would it be looked at as gentlemanly?
The answer to the first question is probably no. At most, it would have been a footnote in someone’s recap of the day’s events, but because Garcia was involved, it became a bigger deal than it probably needed to be. I’m not as sure of the second question, but I think the answer is yes, and it probably would have provoked a few “Kuchar proves golf is a still a gentleman’s game” articles, likely from the same people who ripped Richard Sherman after the NFC Championship game, calling him a classless thug and suggesting that you would never see such a thing in golf because of how much honour is present in the game.
Jack Nicklaus conceding a three footer to Tony Jacklin in the 1969 Ryder Cup was classy, as was Payne Stewart telling Colin Montgomerie not to worry about his putt from fifteen feet at Brookline in 1999, but Garcia doing it on Friday must have been stupid or foolish or any other adjective that you want to use that fits your narrative.
You can’t have it both ways, guys.