Sergio Garcia leaves conflicting legacy upon LIV Golf return

·4-min read
Sergio Garcia leaves conflicting legacy upon LIV Golf return

Amid a raucous atmosphere at Texas vs Alabama last weekend, a surprise visitor emerged onto the field: Sergio Garcia. As the Spanish golfer soaked up the best of college football, golf was left to digest the sheer contempt shown to the DP World Tour 48 hours after strutting around Wentworth. Garcia swiftly withdrew from the prestigious BMW PGA Championship after a scrappy four-over-par opening round of 76, leaving him 12 shots adrift of the leaders.

We can all imagine Garcia’s frustration, faced with a mountain to climb in pursuit of the cut and those precious world ranking points now craved more than ever before by most LIV Golf players, who are stuck in a precarious position when it comes to next year’s majors. A speedy exit, while somewhat distasteful, was understandable, flaunting so soon without a proper explanation was the latest example of a legacy dented in recent years. Garcia was once the face of European golf and can point to a green jacket in 2017 and his formidable Ryder Cup record as Europe’s leading points scorer. But those shimmering moments have quickly descended into the darkness since racing towards LIV Golf and the murky source of its Saudi millions.

A supreme legacy has surely now been overtaken, and not merely for accepting the exorbitant sums of money being shot out of a cannon. No, there are examples of players, such as Harold Varner III, who have sheepishly pushed out statements and salvaged respect despite prompting disappointment from some.

“I can’t wait to leave this tour. I can’t wait to get out of here,” Garcia said back in May at the Wells Fargo before his inevitable departure to LIV Golf. “A couple of more weeks and I won’t have to deal with you anymore.”

A relatively harmless squabble over a ruling merely brushes the surface of an unsavoury run, with remorse usually hard to find. From destroying tee markers and spitting to the prescient act of petulance in Saudi Arabia when he scuffed multiple greens, earning himself disqualification.

Garcia’s swift departure from Surrey to Austin is the latest example of his actions and consequences. His silence suggests he has not yet met the criteria to withdraw by providing “emergency reasons or medical circumstances deemed reasonable by the tournament director”.

The sheer awkwardness is visible in each mixed field between DP World Tour and PGA Tour players and *them*, with Shane Lowry admitting this week to a palpable tension at Wentworth. Even friends and compatriots may drift apart. Jon Rahm made a point of how certain players turning up at Wentworth had irked him because his good friend Alfredo García-Heredia, battling to stay afloat in golf’s ecosystem, was the first reserve.

LIV Golf afforded Garcia the opportunity to earn more and play less, and yet like many, he wanted to have his cake and eat it, to swan over the Atlantic and amass world ranking points to gain entry to majors beyond Augusta, where he has a lifetime of starts. A five-year exemption to the US Open, the Open and the PGA Championship has expired and Garcia is perilously tumbling down the rankings, currently 77th at the time of writing.

You can imagine the impending fine from the DP World Tour will do little to alter Garcia’s ways, with the 42-year-old teeing it up in LIV Golf’s fifth event in Chicago this weekend. After a slow start, finishing 24th and 26th in London and Portland, Garcia has two top-10 finishes in succession in the 48-man limited-field events. And yet, his middle of the road showings have seen him earn $1.6m (£1.4m) over just four outings – Lowry earned £1.18m ($1.36m) for winning at Wentworth on Sunday.

Sergio Garcia reacts to a wayward iron shot during his opening round at Wentworth (AFP/Getty)
Sergio Garcia reacts to a wayward iron shot during his opening round at Wentworth (AFP/Getty)

Rory McIlroy further illustrated a consequence of golf’s bitter divide, commenting on his relationship with the likes of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Garcia and whether it can endure golf’s feud.

“I have no idea. I wouldn’t say I’ve got much of a relationship with them at the minute,” said the world No 2. “They are here. They are playing the tournament. My opinion is they shouldn’t be.”

McIlroy’s candidness doesn’t appear to make Garcia and co too uncomfortable though, even if the four-time major winner reiterated: “I don’t think any of those guys should be on the Ryder Cup team. I think we were in need of a rebuild, anyway. We did well with the same guys for a very long time but again as I just said, everything comes to an end at some point.”

This week, the cream of the DP World Tour glean just what is in store for those involved in next year’s Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club on the outskirts of Rome. Garcia in his race back to Texas and on to Chicago might well have left his legacy behind.