CHARLOTTE, N.C. – You can go a long time without seeing a round of 68 as eventful as that of Sergio Garcia on Friday.
First he chipped in from 4 feet away on the third green in order to avoid a large spike mark. Then he tweaked his back on the 10th tee to the point where he may be forced to withdraw on Saturday. And finally he was the subject of a lengthy rules review after a television caller notified Wells Fargo Championship officials that he may have marked his ball on the 17th green in an incorrect manner.
Following a 45-minute review process during which he watched video and consulted with both on-site rules officials and those from the USGA, Garcia wasn’t found in violation of any rule.
“Someone called on my short putt on 17 for par saying that I marked the ball on the side and then put it in front, which would mean that I gained about an inch or an inch-and-a-half,” he said after the round. “But what I did was I didn't want to step on Billy [Haas’] line, which was behind me, so I kind of marked it behind the ball but from the side. Then I put it straight up or straight down where I thought it was the same spot. I thought I put it as close as I could, obviously, with the coin still behind the ball. It looked like it might have moved a tiny bit, but the rules officials felt that obviously I didn't gain anything by it.
“There are obviously a lot of times that you try to put it in exactly the same spot but it's difficult to do, not just for me, but for everyone. They thought that it was fine.”
Garcia maintained that he was worried about how it would be perceived if he got the favorable ruling.
“I said to them, ‘They way I’ve been brought up in this game by my father, the game is bigger than anyone else. If people are going to think I’m a cheater, I’d rather get a two-stroke penalty and move on than not get a two-stroke penalty and people think I’m cheating,’” he said.
As for his back, Garcia tweaked it while hitting his drive on the 10th hole and played the entire back nine while feeling some discomfort.
“You can see that I was struggling to get my right side through it. I struggled through the whole back nine – even though I made a couple of swings here and there, I struggled to get through the ball and then I started losing shots to the right,” he explained. “I’m going to treat it tonight and hopefully it feels good tomorrow.
“If it doesn’t feel good, with the way the greens are, I might not play. But hopefully with some good treatment and some nice rest, I can go to the range tomorrow and feel fine and feel like I can hit through the ball nicely.”
While some believed Garcia’s chip with a 52-degree wedge on the third hole may have been a silent yet visual protest to the state of Quail Hollow’s greens, he contended that it was absolutely necessary in order to avoid a spike mark that was the width of a silver dollar and about one inch deep.
“He couldn’t have putted it,” said Garcia’s caddie, Greg Hearmon. “Well, he could have, but he wouldn’t have made it.”