Sergio Garcia fled the scene without talking to the press or explaining himself on Thursday at TPC Potomac. He’s got experience with those evasive maneuvers. It’s what he did in 2019, when he disappeared from view after a DQ for “serious misconduct,” a genteel catch-all term for an unhinged diaper-filling temper tantrum. It’s what he did in 2013, when he blew out of a European Tour gala after he joked he’d serve Tiger Woods “fried chicken” if he had him over for dinner. A terse statement expressing regret followed the DQ in 2019, and a chastened Sergio appeared the next day in 2013 for a press conference to issue an apology to Woods, those at the gala, and anyone that he could have offended with the jokes.
The reason for Thursday’s immediate dodge of having to account for himself is far less egregious than those two outbursts. He may eventually explain himself before the week is done, one that might be his last on the PGA Tour if his comments on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Championship are to be taken at face value.
Garcia yanked one into the hazard left at the 10th hole, or the Sung Kang sanctuary, as you might have previously known it. Sergio forded the river with his usual emotional intelligence in tow and proceeded to look for the ball in the marshy area. He found it, but only after a rules official deemed the 3-minute allowance had expired. The rules official, the PGA Tour clarified on Thursday, was wrong on the timing. But this is Sergio Garcia and others’ mistakes that might impact him in any way do not go unberated.
The Spaniard expressed his frustration by telling the official for the Tour that’s put $54 million in his bank account “just a couple more weeks until I don’t have to deal with you any more.” He also called the situation “bullshit,” and said, “I can’t wait to leave this tour,” and added one more “can’t wait to get out of here.” “Here” was a reference to the PGA Tour and not the hazard he was shuffling around in, a frustrated retort to the rules official and an implied admission that he’s set to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
Sergio Garcia, frustrated with what he thought was the early start of the clock to look for a lost ball, seemingly telling a rules official…
…I cant wait to leave this tour
…cant wait to get outta here
…just a couple more weeks until I don’t have to deal with you any more pic.twitter.com/k1qRRYbmsF
— The Fried Egg (@the_fried_egg) May 5, 2022
The tantrum was caught on the broadcast, went viral, and Sergio skipped out without talking to the press following a round that put him inside the top 20. This is fine, even expected after two decades of Sergio, both the teenager from Spain and grown-ass man from Texas versions. But it’s the kind of entitled behavior and freedom from consequences that will not be afforded him if and when he runs into the arms of the Saudis. Professional golfers love to tout the independence and the be-your-own-boss autonomy that their solitary sport provides. But you’re not just answering to yourself when you take the Saudi money, but adding a boss of sorts. The money may be so good that it might not matter where it comes from or if your autonomy as a pro golfer is diminished.
It’s not that you won’t be able to blow off the press or ream out a rules official, even if he’s now paid by an authoritarian regime and not a player-run organization like the PGA Tour. Go ahead and blow off inquiring minds; we know how his new employers feel about nagging questions from the press. Make your own rules on the fly out there. Never even take a penalty here at LIV Golf! The actual golf product is not what matters most—sportswashing is, but that comes with a new boss, and one that does have the power to check someone with decades of Sergio-like shenanigans. It’s how Phil Mickelson galaxy-brained his way into the quote that he didn’t know if players would be “selfless” enough to take the obscene payouts of Saudi money because it meant giving up an element of control of one’s own schedule. But Phil is also the one who framed this as a fight for more rights, an amusing argument when the Saudi regime is on the other end of the scale providing the leverage.
Remember when Brooks Koepka told an R&A official “he didn’t give a fuck” who the distinguished gentleman was exhorting him to play on in windy conditions at the 2015 Open? Or just this year when Charley Hoffman used Instagram to go bananas on the Tour about his ball rolling into the water? Or Patrick Reed’s career on Tour? This sort of freedom to constantly spout off and push back cannot be the same when you take someone else’s money just to show up, especially when that money comes from, as Phil put it, “scary motherfuckers” using the golf to launder their image.
So Sergio maybe “can’t wait” to get out of here”—the money may be good enough, and his time on Tour may have just run its course. But he’s not running from some unfair or oppressive league into complete and total freedom to be the usual temperamental tot who so frequently pops off and doesn’t feel like he has to answer to anyone. As he did today, he can bolt off the grounds and evade the press, but he’ll have to explain himself to someone when he stirs something up like he always has. In fact, there will be an ultimate authority that’s unreceptive to repeatedly dealing with precisely the kind of person like the disagreeable Spaniard.