I’ve quizzed longtime observers and no one can come up with anything in the history of professional golf comparable to Sergio Garcia’s disqualification under Rule 1.2a for purposely damaging the Royal Greens.
For a player who lowered the bar when he spit into a Doral cup during the 2007 CA WGC event, the notion of altering the playing field is an entirely different beast. Worse, in his statement he mentions damaging a “couple” of greens, but Martin Dempster, reporting on site for The Scotsman, says it was five greens.
The incident Saturday culminated a week of bad behavior from Garcia. Alistair Tait noted for Golfweek that “Garcia is alleged to have complained about the greens earlier in the week. The decision came a day after he slammed a club in a bunker in anger.”
James Corrigan also noted the weeklong antics.
Struggling at around level par, Garcia’s renowned rage got the better of him as he slammed his club into the putting surfaces on multiple occasions. Observers at the Royal Greens Country Club revealed that he was heard criticisng the greens earlier in the week and on Friday was seen taking out his dislike of the bunkers by smashing down his sand-wedge.
The American Patrick Reed was involved as he was in the group immediately behind Garcia that first drew the officials’ attention to the gouges on the greens. The three groups following Reed also complained to the referees and it was then that Tour chief executive, Keith Pelley, confronted Garcia.
Ewan Murray noted this about the incident for The Guardian:
Sky Sports curiously reserved little attention for this newsworthy situation at the conclusion of their live broadcast, with the 62 produced by China’s Li Haotong deemed worthy of far more coverage.
Pelley could have done without these antics by one of his tour’s most high-profile players. The European Tour’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia for the first time has been subject of widespread criticism on the basis of human rights infringements by the country.
Here is the meeting with Pelley after play:
The dreadful incident is a fitting black eye for a tournament that should not have been played. But beyond the optics, given the weeklong behavior, the career of etiquette breaches and the absurdity of damaging the host course, Garcia should be suspended for the remainder of the 2019 season.
Consider the last penalty for a rule 1.2a violation from Corrigan’s account:
The last high-profile pro to be hit with a misconduct charge was Simon Dyson in 2013. The Yorkshireman was disqualified from the BMW Masters and was forced to pay a £30,000 fine and received a two-month suspended ban. Dyson's crime was to tap down a spike mark, an act that was then against the rules, but which is now allowed.
Dyson’s act was a selfish, split-second mistake that might have improved the playing surface for himself. Garcia intentionally damaged a host venue and left behind poor conditions for those playing after him. It’s an unprecedented breach that calls for an unprecedented penalty.