There once was a swashbuckling young Spaniard named Sergio. When Señor García burst on to the golf scene more than two decades ago, there was excitement about a player who was carefree on the course and had a twinkle in his eye off it. The expectation was that García would win a lot more than the solitary major that has come his way – the 2017 Masters – but a combined 27 victories between the DP World and PGA Tours still make the 43-year-old one of the finest players of his generation.
We are, however, entitled to ask why life apparently turned so sour for García. Going by the guide books, his 2022 switch to LIV Golf should have afforded him professional harmony. The rebel tour has been handed fresh impetus by the success of Brooks Koepka at the US PGA Championship.
Much like Newcastle United’s rise with Saudi Arabian backing, this is of course precisely how sportswashing works; ignore the organ grinders, bask in the achievement. Yet LIV, which is so desperately in need of traction, will inevitably focus on Koepka’s glory at Oak Hill.
García, meanwhile, is as crotchety as ever. Last week, when asked if he had spoken to Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, Luke Donald, García played his latest victim card. “I talked to him two or three weeks ago,” García said. “Obviously I had to make some decisions when it comes down to the DP World Tour and I wanted to see where I stood in regards to the Ryder Cup.
“I wanted him to be sincere and tell me the truth and he pretty much told me that I had no chance. Obviously that made my decision a little bit easier. It was sad because I felt like not only because of my history but the way I’ve been playing, that I probably could have a chance, but it didn’t sound like it, so that’s what it is.”
The DP World Tour confirmed in early May that García had resigned his membership. By total coincidence, a sporting arbitration panel had determined weeks earlier that the tour was correct to punish García and others for playing in LIV events last year, therefore breaching membership rules. García was among those hit with a £100,000 fine, which he has failed to pay.
But … big, bad Luke. Which represents a slight change, given at the Masters it was the media García took aim at for supposedly exaggerating the LIV‑associated schism in his sport. In October, García publicly stated he was staying away from the Ryder Cup for the good of his teammates. It has become hard to keep up.
“It sounded like my chance was slim to none,” García said of his Ryder Cup prospects. Donald’s recollection of the conversation between former European teammates is understood to be different from García’s.
What followed was a needless swipe at Rory McIlroy and Europe’s chances of reclaiming the trophy, in Rome climaxing on 1 October, plus the strange notion that García and Jon Rahm should have been allowed to continue a partnership formed in 2021 at Whistling Straits.
“I think we were all thinking and hoping that they [the DP World Tour] would be smart about it and still have options open, because at the end of the day, I’m still European,” García said.
“I’m Spanish and I want the European team to win and do the best they can and have the best chance at winning the Ryder Cup.
“I was excited about the possibility of playing with Jon again and I know that Jon was also excited about that possibility, too. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, at least for now.
“But it’s what it is, and you have to move on. I can’t just be sitting here crying that I’m not going to play the Ryder Cup. I hope that Rory recovers because I think the team is going to need him to be 120% if they want to have a chance of winning. Hopefully they’ll all get there with the best chance possible and see what we can do.”
McIlroy has indeed been out of sorts but it is May. He will be ably assisted by players such as Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton and Shane Lowry. The US have a miserable Ryder Cup record playing away from home. For all García and Rahm combined well in Wisconsin, it was an otherwise disastrous week for the Europeans.
García has played in five majors since that point, missing the cut in three and posting a best result of tied 23rd. It is tricky to see how he would have been selected for the Ryder Cup other than on sentimental grounds. That is before García’s audible dissatisfaction with all things DP World Tour and that the feeling is mutual (there are 100,000 reasons for that) is considered. Relationships have completely broken down.
García’s theme is in keeping with some – but not all – LIV golfers, who seem desperate to portray themselves as put-upon in golf’s civil war. Take the Saudi dollars, hit out at the establishment.
In 2014, García claimed he was “too tired” to participate in the DP World Tour’s final series. Five years later, he had a meltdown in a bunker during a tournament in Saudi Arabia. Life moved on then, just as it did a decade ago when he made an infamous remark about Tiger Woods at a gala dinner.
García made a business decision to join LIV. For the good of his reputation, he would be better off focusing on what lies ahead than taking swipes at those he purposely left behind.