ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND | Sergio García has always loved to be loved and, after a closing 73 on Sunday in the Open Championship at the Old Course which would not have helped his mood of the moment, he announced that he “probably” would be leaving the DP World Tour on the grounds that he no longer felt wanted.
“I want to play where they love me,” the 2017 Masters champion said after his T68 finish at the Open, “and on the European tour, I don’t feel loved.”
Presumably his many fans – for he is indeed a fan favourite – will be begging him to hang on a minute, to think again. Things could yet be sorted out amid all the legal to-ing and fro-ing.
Because it is way too soon for García to be sure that life will be a ball of fun among his fellow LIV Golf Invitational Series players and their Saudi masters, and that LIV equates to love, he sounds for all the world like a player calling for help. Yet Sunday, he tried to have us believe that his thoughts of leaving the European Tour were predominantly down to the way Thomas Björn, a player who is no less tempestuous than he is himself, attacked the LIV fraternity at the BMW International Open in Germany.
“When Thomas Björn comes to the BMW Championship and tells us, ‘We don't want any of you, and all the players say so,’ well, I'm already old enough and I’ve suffered enough not to be putting up with nonsense like that.”
He went on to hit out at the European Tour, known these days by its commercial name DP World Tour, which he said would plummet to fifth position among the world tours. After having received an unfavorable ruling during the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship in early May, he said of the PGA Tour, “I can’t wait to leave this place.”
“If you keep hearing cries like, ‘Hit in the water!’ ‘Hit in the water!’ of course it’s going to get to you at some point.”
Oddly enough, it was Björn, then the chairman of the European Tour players committee, who came to Garcia’s defence when, in 2015, he found himself being heckled at the Players Championship. Bjorn raised concerns about the extent of the drinking at that event at the PGA Tour’s headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, saying that the Americans had made trouble for themselves with the stadium scenarios there at their more spectacular par-3s. “People drink to excess, and things can very quickly spin out of control.”
Meanwhile, Carlos Rodriguez, García’s manager, said that his charge had been genuinely upset. “If you keep hearing cries like, ‘Hit in the water!’ ‘Hit in the water!’ of course it’s going to get to you at some point.”
García allowed his emotional side to come to the fore when, in 2019, he took a few swipes at the Saudis’ greens in the inaugural Saudi International. Even if the Saudis were not appalled – they liked the publicity that followed – Garcia was genuinely angry with himself for what he had done.
Not too long afterwards, he explained his bout of on-course craziness to Global Golf Post. “I was in shock,” he said.
It was down to how his much-loved parents, Victor and Consuela, had suddenly found themselves at odds. “Now, everything’s great again,” Garcia said. He said that he did not play a role in the reconciliation process other than in being “as supportive of them as they have always been of me.”
Recent reports in Sweden suggest that Henrik Stenson, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain for the 2023 match in Italy, will jump to LIV Golf, too, and relinquish his position.
The European Tour needs players of García’s calibre for Ryder Cup purposes – be it as captains or players — as much as anything else. Consider that Garcia holds the record for points scored in the biennial match, having gleaned 28.5 points from 10 appearances. García, 42, has won 15 times on the European Tour and 10 more on the PGA Tour.
Indeed, the extent to which the European Tour and García love each other in a Ryder Cup context is such that García has more than once been selected as a captain’s pick. Again, at the 2020 Ryder Cup, García won the inaugural Nicklaus-Jacklin Award for the European team, an award given to the player “whose teamwork, sportsmanship, performance and decisions epitomised the spirit of the Ryder Cup.”
How can this not get across the message that it is time for all the relevant parties to get together before the next LIV-generated fiasco follows, which it surely will?