Latest Sergio Garcia outburst raises further questions about conduct

July 29, 2019

When it comes to players expressing frustration, golf has a thin line between what’s acceptable and what isn’t — a line that Sergio Garcia crossed once again over the weekend in Memphis. Video surfaced of Garcia gouging the tee box with his driver after hitting a tee shot on No. 16 at TPC Southwind on Saturday. Garcia would go on to finish one under for the week, T40.

Garcia’s driver-gouge was no tragedy in and of itself; that driver-slam is a move familiar to many an amateur hacker. But it’s just the latest incident in what has become a pattern of behavior for Garcia.

Here’s the video from Saturday:

The incident came on the heels of a moment of frustration involving his caddie at last week’s Open Championship. After Garcia’s drive sailed long of the green and out of bounds at the drivable 5th, he flung his driver at his unsuspecting caddie.

Garcia found himself at the center of a confusing ruling at the WGC-Match Play, where he quick-swiped a tap-in before opponent Matt Kuchar had conceded the putt, leading to an awkward exchange where Garcia asked Kuchar to consider forfeiting another hole.

And it was earlier this year at the Saudi International that Garcia did his worst, intentionally taking gouges out of several greens out of frustration. Garcia’s behavior drew complaints and rebukes from other players and ultimately led to his disqualification.

While video of that incident never surfaced, Garcia was clearly running hot at the Saudi International — as shown in this bunker tantrum.

It’s worth pointing out that none of this makes Garcia a bad guy. There’s no real need for “think-of-the-children” handwringing. But his actions should be called out and addressed for what they are: unacceptable behavior. In professional golf, frustration is part of the job, and nearly every pro has moments where he needs to blow off steam. But the line Garcia has crossed is one where his frustration affects others. You cannot take your anger out on your caddie or on the golf course. That’s why we tolerate (heck, occasionally celebrate!) a clean snap of the club but admonish gouging the greens. Regardless, whatever steps golf’s governing bodies have taken to encourage Garcia’s behavior to improve have clearly not worked.

Garcia is far from the only offender of golf’s subtler rules, of course. These same cardinal sins have been exposed of late by Matt Wallace (berating his caddie) Bryson DeChambeau (gouging a practice green) or Kuchar himself (stretching for a ruling). There’s rightfully less handwringing over incidents like Patrick Reed’s 18th-hole club-snap at Pebble Beach.

Golf courses are fragile by nature; they have that in common with the pros that walk upon them. Players are allowed to express their emotions, and should do so — the sport becomes rather less exciting without those. But the standard for player conduct on the course is not set particularly high. The Tour should make it clear to Garcia that he needs to clear it.