A glutinous, coal-black mixture of animal fat, beef extract and probably an internal organ of a three-toed sloth enjoys popularity in the United Kingdom where it is spread on bread, biscuits or toast. Invented by a German scientist, it is called Marmite and was first sold in Britain in 1902. In the UK there are those who love Marmite and those who hate it, and it has come to be used colloquially as meaning something that divides opinions. I love it, particularly on warm, runny buttered toast, but I dare say you would hate it, warm toast and runny butter or not.
With a trifling alteration of the verb from the words to love into the words to like, it is possible to say that Sergio García, the ebullient Spaniard, is Marmite. There are those who like him and always have done so, and those who do not and have not. Nothing very unusual in that. If there is a golfer who is universally liked and admired, able to give of his time freely and of whom no one seems to say a bad word, then he is probably Mother Teresa in disguise. Harold Varner III, anyone? Richard Bland, anyone?
In the early years of his career, Nick Faldo was drawn to controversy as a small boy is drawn to a puddle or a dog to a lamppost. Much the same could be said of García, who has been in more incidents than there are dimples on a golf ball.
He drop-kicked one of his golf shoes after a wild drive at Wentworth. He spat into a cup. He whined about losing a playoff to Pádraig Harrington at the 2007 Open. He gave the finger to those who barracked him when he was gripping and re-gripping his club as many as 25 times before hitting his shot. He intentionally damaged up to five greens during a tournament in the Middle East and was disqualified from the event as a result. This after he had angrily wielded his putter like an axe, propelling it time and again into the sand in a bunker. He was 38 at the time.
In his 10 appearances in the Ryder Cup, García has won 28½ points, more than any other European. ... Europeans love him and many Americans don’t.
And now, after he received what he felt was an incorrect ruling during the opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship in Maryland last Thursday, he has huffed and puffed his way into the embrace of Greg Norman’s LIV Golf Invitational Series, financed by the Saudi Arabians, the first of which is to be held in St Albans, 20 miles northwest of London, next month. How do we know this? Because García’s words last Thursday revealed his future intentions: “Now I know why I can’t wait to leave this tour.”
It hardly matters that the PGA Tour later admitted that the ruling had been wrong. Many believe that by throwing in his lot with the Middle East disrupters, García has eaten the game’s forbidden fruit. García in another controversy. García perceived to be in the wrong. So what else is new? He is not the most popular player on the PGA Tour. In a perceptive tweet last week, Samantha Marks, formerly of Golf Channel, asked: “Is Sergio just a Spanish version of Patrick Reed?” Good question, Samantha.
Brandel Chamblee, the incisive golf commentator on Golf Channel, tweeted: “Sergio’s comment today, ‘I can’t wait to leave this tour,’ presumably to the Saudi backed tour, shows a glaring ignorance to the murderous and incarcerating intolerance in SA perpetuated by MBS to anyone who disagrees with him. You’re free to leave Sergio, unlike dissidents in SA.”
It is ironic that García will soon be paid by and playing for an organisation fronted by Norman. In 2009, The Times, the newspaper of record, disclosed the reason for García’s sudden loss of form. “It was being dumped by my girl that drove me into the rough, Sergio García reveals” ran the headline of a story about the ending of his relationship with Morgan-Leigh Norman, Greg’s daughter. “It hurt,” García, then 29, said. “It was probably the first time I have been really in love. It took me a while to get over it.”
In his 10 appearances in the Ryder Cup, García has won 28½ points, more than any other European. No wonder he has become to the Ryder Cup what Dottie Pepper was to the Solheim Cup. Americans loved her passion; the Europeans allegedly put a punch ball with her face on it in their team room. Like García, she was a one-person irritant to the other side, one whose behaviour is described as ebullient by supporters, and as a little over the top by critics and those on other side. In Ryder Cups, Europeans love him and many Americans don’t.
Luke Donald told Jaime Diaz, the golf writer then at Golf Digest, how at the Ryder Cup García will, “be jumping on the bed at 6 a.m. and yelling, ‘It’s Ryder Cup week! It’s Ryder Cup week!” But it’s a quality that draws you to him as well.”
This boyish side of García is the one that made him cry in his mother’s arms when he ran up an 89 in the opening round of the 1999 Open at Carnoustie, the same that made him run and hitch-kick his way up a fairway after his shot from the base of a tree at Medinah in the 1999 PGA Championship, the same that makes him a pain in what the British call “the rear end” to the Americans at the Ryder Cup with his overt patriotism. “That’s Sergio,” Davis Love III said with a sigh when he heard of García’s antics at one Ryder Cup.
García, the 2017 Masters champion, is one of the best ballstrikers in the game today and, on occasions, one of the poorest putters. He can be charming and generous, and has been to this writer, providing him with insight and access and once buying him lunch at a restaurant in Crans-sur-Sierre, Switzerland. But he also divides opinion, and that in the end may be the determining factor when it comes to making an assessment of his career.
Sergio García? Marmite.
Top: Sergio García during the 2021 World Wide Technology Championship