I’ve followed Sergio Garcia since he won the British am and contended in the US am. To me, he’s a very compelling if sometimes confounding player (and person?) to watch.
After The Players someone asked Garcia how he liked playing in that arena. Garcia was vague in reply but made it clear there had been some heckling and went on to say that it’s worse when he’s in contention. It was clear that it was not a subject he was comfortable discussing and he ended the interview rather abruptly.
That got me thinking about the source of Garcia’s off and on relationship with galleries. From 1997 until the 1999 PGA there was none of that; he was the eyes-closed darling of the fans and the media.
Looking back, here’s what I think soured things:
—The 1999 Ryder Cup at The Country Club. 16 years later no one will deny that the galleries were brutal to the European players. I’m sure this got to Garcia more than many of the older players. He played his own stupid-kid card when he sat down in the middle of the fairway to show that he wouldn’t be rushed.
—The 2002 US Open at Bethpage and the Garcia re-grip epidemic. Again, I’ve never heard anything but that the galleries really zeroed in on Garcia.
—Garcia is relentlessly European. He’s never lived in Texas like K.J. Choi and likely never will. In 2014 he played in 16 events on the PGA Tour and 17 on the European Tour. Though it’s likely not helped his game or increased his shot at a bagging a major, he’s remained loyal to his continent and tour.
From 1997 to 1999 Garcia seemed on the verge of embracing the US. He learned English very quickly and did interviews without translators as soon as he thought he was able to pull it off. Now, I’ll bet Garcia wished he had never learned to speak much English, like Angel Cabrera.
I used to think Garcia had been beaten down by his place in the Tiger Woods Era, but now I don’t think that’s it. I think the US fans beat him down. Surely he has deserved some of it, but much of it was a simple case of grinding a guy for the sake of grinding him.
It would be unfortunate if Garcia became the successor to Colin Montgomerie. I’ve followed both players in person and I can tell you that I never saw Garcia do anything but keep his head down and play his game. Monty on the other hand quite nearly seemed to be looking for a confrontation. It was weird; Monty acted like he was under attack when he wasn’t. When I looked at Monty the word jerk came to mind. Garcia doesn’t look like a jerk to me. And, he always seems very well liked by other players, true, most of them are Euros, but the ability to get along is the ability to get along. In that way, Garcia can do something that Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson can’t.
In the end, I didn’t think Garcia would win The Players. He had lost his inner Spaniard somewhere. And, there were too many ghosts floating above the 17th green, and the lingering image of his ball coming up short against Woods, for him to go flag hunting like Fowler and Kisner. In a odd way, it was almost as if even the announcers found a way to dig at Garcia, with Dan Hicks mimicking Garcia’s accent and Miller opining that Garcia looked like he needed a siesta as Garcia watched Kisner’s putt on the 72nd hole.
That, was not something Garcia brought on himself. Hicks and Miller did that all by themselves and they may not even be aware of it.
I hope Garcia finds whatever it is he has lost before too many more pages of the calender get turned.