However implausible it may seem now, once upon a time Sergio Garcia enjoyed a reputation that was, if not quite the gold standard, then at least a couple of notches above junk status. That was when he was a teenage phenom scissor-kicking down the fairway in pursuit of Tiger Woods, when success — particularly in major championships — seemed not only assured but imminent. In the almost 20 years that elapsed before that major win finally came, Garcia didn’t mature, his only growth apparent in a disposition that became more sullen, more entitled, more petulant and more unprofessional.
The data set for Garcia’s dickish behavior was augmented right up until his final regular event on the PGA Tour, where he has earned more than $54 million, before bonuses. At May’s Wells Fargo Championship, he bellyached about an unfair ruling before announcing, “I can’t wait to leave this tour. I can’t wait to get out of here…” His words fell like a welcome rain on the usually arid world of rules officials.
Garcia decamped to LIV Golf with a lengthy résumé of gauche antics, select lowlights of which include flinging his shoe into a gallery, flipping off spectators, spitting into the cup, and getting booted from a tournament in Saudi Arabia for defacing five greens during an extended conniption (that he found the Saudi’s limit for unseemly conduct is an accomplishment at least as impressive as winning the Masters). But like other LIV defectors, he wants to continue cherry-picking the most important stops on the tours he left behind. The BMW PGA Championship, for example, which was held this week in England.
The Spaniard had been asked about the chilly reception likely awaiting at Wentworth and his response sounded a note of selfishness that was wholly on-brand: “What I’m going to do is support the European tour and that’s all I can do. Whoever doesn’t like it, too bad for them.”
The “them” for whom it was too bad included the many competitors who objected to the presence of 18 LIV members in the field; the DP World Tour itself, which made clear the LIV outcasts were in only under legal duress; and the luckless players on the alternate list, who were denied 18 opportunities to compete in their tour’s premier tournament.
Garcia’s professed support of the DP World Tour has never been much in evidence at its flagship event, where he has appeared only twice in the past 22 years. On his last showing, in 2014, he quit after one round. If nothing else, this week indicated how little he has changed in the intervening years.
In Thursday’s first round, Garcia shot a 76 that had him firmly at the end of the leaderboard. He was finished by the time news broke of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, which prompted a suspension of play and reduced the championship to 54 holes. When matters resumed on Saturday, he was announced as having drawn. A few hours later, he was sideline at the Texas-Alabama game in Austin, 5,000 miles from Wentworth. He did not extend tournament organizers the courtesy of an explanation for his WD.
There were other WDs, but Garcia was the only LIV member to command a precious spot in the field and then abandon it after 18 indifferent holes. His was also the only WD intended as a middle finger to the DP World Tour and its unwelcoming members. To interpret it as anything else demands a generosity that he has not earned.
So why did Garcia enter a tournament at which he wasn’t welcome, played on a course he doesn’t like? Because LIV expects its infantrymen to present themselves at every significant event for which they are eligible — to normalize its existence, to grab world ranking points, and to otherwise disrupt the status quo. And LIV doesn’t own a man more infantile than Garcia.
It’s futile to wonder if Garcia’s reputation among his peers will be hurt by this latest unprofessionalism since one cannot further diminish that which has already been rendered fecal. He ensured as much at the BMW International Open in Munich earlier this summer with a locker room tirade overheard by a number of players. “This Tour is s***, you’re all f****d, should have taken the Saudi money!” he was widely reported to have shouted.
“Amazing how fast you can lose respect for someone that you’ve looked up to all your life,” said a barely cryptic tweet by Scotland’s Bob MacIntyre shortly afterward.
“He fooled a lot of people for quite some time,” said a Saturday evening text from one person who has known Garcia well for his entire career, “but I think his true colors are now visible in glorious technicolor.”
It’s unlikely that Garcia will exhibit the same contempt for his new employers as he did for the DP World Tour and his fellow players at Wentworth, not least because the boss is known to get sawed off at dissent. He’s obliged by contracts and cash to meet his commitments on LIV’s circuit. All that was required to fulfill the obligation he assumed at Wentworth was professionalism and courtesy. Predictably, he was again found wanting.
Whatever the amount that greased Garcia’s palm for the jump to LIV, it didn’t buy him the one thing he has never possessed, nor apparently ever sought: class. Not even MBS can gift him that. At some point, the Saudis will glumly realize just what they have bought. Too bad for them.