Sergio Garcia / Image from Getty Images
Victorious Versailles Ryder Cup team-mate Rory McIlroy has joined the large golfing chorus in slamming Sergio Garcia’s Saudi International actions.
Garcia has now apologised to the players in his group but is yet to face three-time Major-winning Brooks Koepka after damaging greens on day three of the inaugural European Tour event.
The 2017 Masters winner has previously apologised via a statement and on social media and again now while in the locker room of the Riviera Country Club locker-room, host course venue for this week’s Genesis Open.
“I’m sure I’m going to hear it throughout the year,” Garcia told The Associated Press. “I am in the right way. I want to face my mistakes head on. My job is to go out there and enjoy my game and show everyone that no matter what, I can be the best behaved guy in the classroom. I just hope I can maintain their respect.”
The Genesis Open is his first event since the controversy in Saudi Arabia where Garcia found himself thrown out of the inaugural European Tour event.
His actions drew widespread criticism not from those also competing but from golf observers around the world, and given Garcia’s lost history of petulance dating back to the 1999 Cisco World Match-Play at Wentworth when he threw one of his golf shoes into the crowd, and then when it was sent back to him, he kicked at the shoe just missing the face of John Grant, a then European Tour official.
Garcia first put the incident in Saudi Arabia down to the result of a ‘personal issue’ and while he would not disclose the personal matter he said it was no excuse, and that he knew immediately he had done wrong.
“It hit me like on the 10th hole. I started thinking: ‘What am I doing? Get your head back on top of your shoulders,’” Garcia said. “I know I lost it.”
Garcia’s disqualification – the European Tour said he would not be suspended – ended a streak of seven straight top 10s worldwide, which began when he was picked for the Ryder Cup in France. He went 3-1-0 for the week at Le Golf National.
What continues to surprise many, given his long history of petulance, is that Garcia unbelievably escaped both a heavy European Tour fine and a suspension.
“I feel terrible about it,” Garcia added. “I’ve been thinking about it for the last week, every day. I’m an emotional player. That emotion is probably my biggest strength, but it’s also one of my biggest flaws. If I channel it the right way, it’s amazing. I think that’s why people follow me the way they do. If I channel it the wrong way, it’s too extreme. My goal is make sure the bad gets better and the good stays.”
McIlroy then added to the comments saying there was “no excuse” for Garcia Saudi Arabia behaviour. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from. It’s not acceptable,” McIlroy said. “If you’ve got stuff bothering you, let the course be your sanctuary. I’ve had to deal with that in the past.”
The strongest player comments though came from Koepka, who said on the “Playing Through Podcast” that the Saudi incident was “Sergio acting like a child. You’re 40 years old, so you’ve got to grow up eventually,” Koepka said.
Garcia pondered what he would say to Koepka when he sees him next week in the WGC – Mexico Championship.
“I’m going to tell him I agree,” Garcia said. “I’m the first one to say that I was wrong. I agree with what he said. That’s why we’re here, to get better, to grow up and become better people.”
He paused and smiled before adding: “But I don’t agree with the age. He got my age wrong. I’m 39, not 40. So I have a year to improve,” Garcia said. “But when I see him, I’ll tell him I agree, and I’m sorry for what happened. And I understand why he would say that.”
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