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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Aiken, Waring tied at Nordea; Olesen three back

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 5:45 pm

MOLNDAL, Sweden – Paul Waring of England and Thomas Aiken of South Africa share the lead, three shots clear of their rivals, after the third round of the Nordea Masters on the European Tour on Saturday.

Waring was tied for first place with Scott Jamieson after the second round and shot a 1-under 69.

While Jamieson (75) slipped down the leaderboard, Aiken caught up Waring after shooting 67 - despite three straight bogeys from No. 15. He bounced back by making birdie at the last.

Thorbjorn Olesen (67) and Marc Warren (66) are tied for third.

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Koepka: 'Surreal' Woods waited to say congrats at PGA

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 3:47 pm

Brooks Koepka was moved by the respect shown when Tiger Woods waited for a half hour at scoring last Sunday to congratulate Koepka for his PGA Championship victory at Bellerive.

While Koepka stands as an example of the new athletes Woods has attracted to the game, he laughs hearing people compare his body to an NFL player’s.

Those were among the observations Koepka shared Friday on "The Dan Patrick Show."

“That was surreal,” Koepka said of Woods waiting to congratulate him. “To hang around on 18, I wasn’t expecting it. It was probably the coolest gesture he could have done.”

Koepka credits Woods for drawing him to the game.

“He’s the reason I am playing,” Koepka said.

Koepka said playing with Woods in contention was a noisy experience that went beyond the roars Woods created making birdies in front of him.

“Even when he makes contact, you know what shot he’s hitting,” Koepka said. “That’s how loud people are.

“When they are putting [his score] up on the leaderboard, you hear it three holes away.”

About those NFL player comparisons, Koepka said his parents wouldn’t let him play football when he was growing up.

“I wasn’t big enough,” he said.

Koepka said he marveled meeting former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

“To be compared to them, it makes me laugh,” Koepka said. “I’m about the size of a cornerback, maybe a free safety.”

Koepka said he’s just over 6 feet tall and weighs 208 pounds.

“I saw Brian Urlacher give an interview,” Koepka said. “It was kind of funny. He said he was impressed at how big I wasn’t ... If I stand next to Justin Thomas, I’m going to look big. Golf doesn’t really have many big guys.”

Koepka told Patrick he is impressed at the athletes just now coming into golf.

“I see the young guys coming out of college,” Koepka said. “They are bombing it past me. They hit it so far, they are leaving me in the dust. It’s hard to think of, because I’ve been one of the longest hitters on tour.”

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McIlroy skipping first FedExCup playoff event

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 3:19 pm

Rory McIlroy committed to playing the FedExCup Playoffs opener at The Northern Trust, the PGA Tour announced after The Open Championship last month.

But McIlroy left the PGA Championship last week saying he might need to skip the opener to regroup, and that’s just what he is doing.

McIlroy wasn’t on The Northern Trust field list published Friday on the PGA Tour’s website.

“I need to assess where I'm at,” McIlroy said leaving Bellerive last week. “I think the best thing for me to do right now is just sort of take a couple days off, reflect on what I need to do going forward.

“The best thing might be to take that first FedExCup week off and work on my game and come back, hopefully, in a better place for Boston.”

McIlroy also skipped the FedExCup opener in 2015, choosing to make his start in the playoffs at Boston that year. It appears he will do the same this year.

“Historically, the first FedEx playoff event hasn't been my best event of the four,” McIlroy said. “I've played well in Boston. I've played pretty well in the other two.”

McIlroy left Bellerive saying he would do some work on his game and see if he felt ready for the playoffs opener as part of a run of big events leading into the Ryder Cup.

“There's a lot of room for improvement,” McIlroy said. “My swing really hasn't been where I want it to be. It was pretty good at the start of the year. I had a couple of months to work on it, but it's just sort of regressed as the season went on and you start to play tournaments, you start to fall back into some of the habits that you don't want to fall back into."

McIlroy has won once over the last two seasons – at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last March – but he has given himself other chances this year with some frustrating finishes. Overall, he has five finishes of third or better in 2018. He got himself in the final pairing with Patrick Reed at the Masters but stumbled to a T-5 finish. He tied for second at The Open last month.

“Inconsistency with the swing has been the big area,” McIlroy said. “If you look at my statistics, especially with approach play on my irons, and even my driving, even though it's been OK, there's been a two-way miss, with sort of everything throughout the bag, and that obviously isn't a good thing. So that's something I need to work on.”

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Watch: Wagner saves season with walk-off eagle dunk

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 18, 2018, 2:45 am

Johnson Wagner kept his FedExCup Playoff hopes alive on Friday at the Wyndham Championship ... and he did it in dramatic fashion.

Needing a birdie on his final hole of the day to make the cut on the number, Johnson used a 9-iron from 153 yards out to dunk his approach for eagle to get inside the cut line.

Johnson's eagle at the last gave him a 66 for the day and earned him two more rounds to try and get inside the FedExCup top 125 for next week's start of the postseason, The Northern Trust.