On the heels of Sergio Garcia’s victory at the Thailand Championship, let’s take this time to review what will forever be remembered as a controversial, tumultuous year for the man considered Public Enemy No. 1 in some golf circles.
On the course, it started with some strong play in a runner-up finish at the Qatar Masters, continued with results of 17th or better in his next eight starts, saw him contend at The Players Championship before losing that tournament in dramatic fashion, then spending the remainder of the year toiling in relative obscurity before claiming his first worldwide win in 364 days.
Garcia’s turbulent year, though, will be remembered for more than just the results. It will be remembered as the year he picked a fight with long-time adversary Tiger Woods, complaining about his playing partner’s perceived ill-timed club selection (even though video evidence showed otherwise), followed a few days later by a now-infamous racially insensitive comment during a European Tour banquet.
Garcia apologized and took his medicine, but his year was hardly a presentation on how to win friends and influence people.
Weeks later, he was serenaded with catcalls at the U.S. Open in reference to that “fried chicken” comment. For a player who can be overly sensitive at times, the backlash certainly didn’t help his performance.
Next year will mark the 15th anniversary of Garcia’s pursuit of Woods as a 19-year-old wunderkind at the 1999 PGA Championship, where he scissor-kicked and smiled his way into the hearts and minds of golf fans. We wouldn’t have guessed then that a 34-year-old version of this player would be sullen and still major-less, but that’s exactly where his journey has taken him.
Major victories by friends (and peers) Adam Scott and Justin Rose should have Garcia still optimistic that his time will come. The talent has always been there, but as 2013 proved once again his story has always been less about talent and more about missed opportunities and a failure to deal with them in the most professional manner.