Sergio firestorm won't die down anytime soon

By Jason SobelMay 22, 2013, 3:18 pm

This is going to sound like a terrible contradiction, but Sergio Garcia’s greatest strength has always been his biggest weakness: He says whatever is on his mind, at any time, to anyone, regardless of potential repercussions. It is this lack of filter that has made him so polarizing. It has also turned an endearing guy into one widely detested by the masses.

As it turns out, being the world’s most honest professional golfer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

In the past, it’s this personality trait that has allowed Garcia to suggest that Tiger Woods would have received preferential treatment during a U.S. Open round that wasn’t delayed despite a downpour. It has let him condemn a higher power for conspiring against him when hitting the flagstick during an Open Championship playoff. It has forced him to blame Woods when crowd noise occurred before his swing at The Players Championship.

And it has ultimately turned an often petulant, underachieving golfer into this polarizing figure, simple because he’s always one thought process away from making an insolent or insular comment.

Never before, though – not in any of those previous situations – has Garcia’s greatest strength and biggest weakness gotten him into so much trouble. And rightfully so.

You know the story by now. During a European Tour gala on Tuesday, Golf Channel’s Steve Sands, serving as emcee, asked Garcia whether he’d invite Woods to dinner during the U.S. Open after their most recent public spat. He responded: “We will have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken.” 

In the court of public opinion, where Garcia was already guilty until proven innocent for other, more innocuous comments, he was immediately and fittingly flogged for what can only be perceived as a racially motivated jab. The comment quickly recalled Fuzzy Zoeller’s own shot at Woods’ heritage prior to the 1997 Masters, for which he was similarly lambasted.

That didn’t stop Garcia from trying to wish it all away. He apologized, over and over. He begged for forgiveness. He said he’d call Woods soon and try to smooth things over, saying those apologies directly to his target.

None of it is going to make this story go away.

In the aftermath, the questions will come fast and, mostly, furious. Is Garcia a racist? Why would a non-racist person make a racially motivated joke? Did he even know it was racially motivated? If not, why choose that very comment at that very moment?

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” Garcia said during a Wednesday news conference. “I felt like my heart was going to come out of my body. Unfortunately, I said it. I wish I didn’t do it, but the only thing I can do is say sorry.”

If we’ve learned anything about Garcia in the years since he quickly rose to prominence as a 19-year-old, exuberant, scissor-kicking phenom at the 1999 PGA Championship, where he lost to Woods, it’s that he tells the truth. Again, it’s his greatest strength and his biggest weakness.

When analyzing, examining and debating this latest headline-grabber from all angles, we should keep this information handy. Garcia likely invoked the fried chicken line because it was the first thing that popped into his mind – and he always says what’s on his mind. By the same token, he profusely apologized for the comment because he honestly and sincerely regrets it; though, it can be argued whether he more greatly regrets the racially charged insinuation itself or the maelstrom it has caused.

For his part, Woods did his best to defuse the situation.

“The comment that was made wasn’t silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate,” he tweeted Wednesday. “I’m confident that there is real regret that the remark was made. The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it’s long past time to move on and talk about golf.”

Those words are the social media equivalent to landing a right cross to Garcia’s chin for his comments, then helping him to his feet and tending to his wounds.

Others won’t be so kind.

Eleven years ago, Garcia came to the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black with a bad case of the waggles. The New York galleries were merciless toward him, yelling with gusto for him to hit the ball in a timely fashion. Much to his personality, Garcia told them what he thought of those comments, extending a middle finger toward the crowd on one occasion.

If he thought that was bad, just wait until this year’s edition of that event. Garcia will be heading to Merion Golf Club soon, just outside of Philadelphia, where – since we’re on the subject of stereotypes – fans have booed Santa Claus and assaulted athletes with batteries. Sure, each incident occurred years ago and the locals aren’t proud of the label, but New Yorkers yelling about waggles should have nothing on Philadelphians yelling about racially motivated comments.

As he’s always done, Garcia will react openly and honestly. That’s the only way he knows. It’s gotten him into trouble before, but never like this. He’s asking for forgiveness, but for a man who has always said what he feels, he’s about to receive a taste of his own medicine.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.