O.K., people. Listen up. I have your marching orders: Sergio Garcia. Cheer for him. Or at the very least, don’t cheer against him, especially not if you plan on attending the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, the British Open at St. Andrews or the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits this summer.
As you know, Garcia is 35 and one of the most talented players of his generation. As you know, he hasn’t won a major. He is close. He is making the putts, even the short ones you have to wiggle into the cup when the world is watching. He just needs a tiny little push in the direction of the prize-giving ceremony, and that’s where you come in.
Sergio needs your help, and rest assured he would put it to good use. No golfer is more attuned to the vibe of the gallery than him. It’s like he has extra-sensory spikes. So surprise him. Cheer for him. Cheer for him like he’s as nice as Rory, as accomplished as Tiger (Sergio’s best friend!) and as comely as Holly Sonders.
Look, not everybody can be a Garcia guy. I get it. His churlish suggestions that the golf gods are against him; his stupid “fried chicken” comment about Woods; Garcia’s admission that in his mind Woods has basically become Lord Voldemort in a Nike hat — El Nino has had some growing up to do for some time, and he may not ever get there.
Heck, even I haven’t always been a Garcia guy. In 2007, I wrote in Golf Magazine that fans had jumped off the bandwagon since his coming of age at the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah. The article (“Hey, Where’d Everyone Go?”) asserted that Garcia was in a no-win situation, namely that fans love to cheer for a winner, but that Garcia’s psyche was such that he needed to feel the love in order to be that winner.
Nothing I’ve seen over the last eight years has changed my opinion, but I’ve come to believe that if something has to give, it should be us. Garcia is such an easy bear to poke the only humane thing to do is stop — if not for him then for the better show that comes of the best players playing their best.
For me the tipping point came after Garcia recently lost in a playoff at the wildly entertaining Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. Afterward he was asked whether he had absorbed more than the usual amount of heckling over the course of the birdie-and-eagle-filled final round.
“When I get into contention,” he said, “no, not really.”
Later, winner Rickie Fowler was on the dais in the same media pavilion when a British journalist asked him if he condones heckling. After looking a little surprised by the question, Fowler finally said no, he did not.
All of which is a little sad.
So, surprise Sergio: Cheer for him or, if you can’t do that, keep your mouth shut.
Although he has been trending in that direction for years, the sensitive Spaniard does not have to become this generation’s Colin Montgomerie, a major-worthy talent who never won a major and is instead remembered for the way he glowered back at hostile crowds, the color up in his cheeks.
The passing of the baton from Monty to Garcia happened way back in 2002, at the first U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. Golf Digest passed out 25,000 buttons that said, Be nice to Monty. Montgomerie loved the idea and acquired 25 buttons for himself, but guess who took the most abuse that week? Garcia, in the midst of his “regrip yips” phase and unable to take the club back, got an earful of Bronx cheer for four days.
Enough already. No more Sergio-baiting. Let’s see if this guy can win his major; it’s a better show that way. If you plan to be at Chambers Bay, St. Andrews or Whistling Straits, either zip it or make your voice heard for the greater good. Yes, you can do it: Make this the summer of Sergio. He’ll be listening.
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