Augusta all about attitude
It’s one thing to navigate the 7,435 yards at Augusta National in the final round of the Masters, a harrowing ride of birdies and bogeys with the pressure of a green jacket riding shotgun.
Even more dangerous might be the 100 yards between the 18th green and the clubhouse.
That’s where Fuzzy Zoeller had stopped toward the end of the 1997 Masters when he jokingly suggested that Tiger Woods not serve fried chicken and collard greens at the Champions Dinner, a quip that ruined his career.
Geoff Ogilvy left the course last year complaining that Augusta National had become too hard.
“That walk … when you’ve had a 74 or whatever, and you walk from the 18th green to the clubhouse, it’s generally a poor time to get an objective answer,” Ogilvy said. “If you had asked me half an hour after I finished, I probably would have been a little more politically correct with the answer.”
Sergio Garcia closed with a 74 on Sunday.
He almost made it the clubhouse.
That’s when The Golf Channel stopped him for a comment, and Garcia wasn’t exactly in “politically correct” mode.
“I don’t like it, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair, and it’s just too tricky. Even when it’s dry, you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway. It’s just too much of a guessing game.”
Mud on the ball two days after a big storm?
That should sound familiar, for it might be what cost Kenny Perry the Masters. He found a splotch of mud on the side of his ball at No. 10 in the playoff, which contributed to a shot sailing even farther left of the green, leading to bogey. Despite the devastating feeling, Perry never used that as an excuse. He should get a green vest for being gracious in defeat.
Garcia, a passionate Spaniard, certainly is entitled to his opinion. He might not have been alone in his complaint. But when The Golf Channel followed with an appropriate question—What would he like to see changed?—he showed his petulant side.
“I don’t care,” Garcia said. “They can do whatever they want. It’s not my problem. I just come and here and play, and then go home.”
This is not the first tantrum Garcia has thrown at a major.
After shooting a 74 in the second round of the 2002 U.S. Open in a steady rain, he blistered the USGA for not stopping play. “If Tiger Woods would have been out there, it would have been called,” he said.
After losing in a playoff in the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie, he said he was playing against more than just the field, suggesting that he also had to face the golfing gods. “I should write a book on how to not miss a shot in the playoff and shoot 1 over,” he said.
The difference this time is that he apologized.
And that’s a good step for Garcia.
“Following my final round at the Masters, I made comments in an interview that I regret and want to apologize for,” he said in a statement released by his managers at IMG. “Out of frustration, I blamed the golf course instead of putting the blame where it belongs, on myself. I didn’t get it done this week. Augusta National is one of the most iconic golf courses in the game and playing in the Masters each year is an honor. I apologize to the members of Augusta National and the fans who rightfully treasure this golf course.”
Let’s see a show of hands for anyone who has heard Garcia use the word “iconic.”
Garcia was the first European to be low amateur in his Masters debut 10 years ago, but he has never figured this place out. He had missed the cut in three of his previous four trips, and his expectations were low.
“My putting doesn’t feel great, and probably my head is not beautiful at the moment,” he said on the eve of this Masters.
But he showed fine form during that Sunday walk to the clubhouse.
If his comments weren’t strong enough, The Golf Channel followed that with an interview from his arch rival, Padraig Harrington, one of the classiest players in the game. Harrington would prefer to have to make pars instead of birdies at Augusta National, but when told of Garcia’s comments, his first reaction was shared by many.
“I’m baffled,” Harrington said. “I think the golf course is fantastic. I like it when it’s difficult; obviously, it wasn’t difficult this week, it was as easy as it’s ever going to be. But I like the idea that the tournament committee has control of the golf course, the setup, for whatever scoring they want.
“I expect to come back in another couple of years and be tested on the other end of things, where par is going to be the winning score,” he said. “It just shows what a great golf course this is, that they can really dictate how we’re going to play it.”
This from a man who was going after a third straight major championship.
Garcia is still searching for his first one, and his behavior Sunday under the live oak tree raised questions whether that will ever happen. He is No. 3 in the world, and that has nothing to do with math. Garcia has immense talent. Even his adversaries would say that Garcia winning a major is more a matter of “when” than “if.”
But the whining has to stop, and the sooner the better.
His next major is the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. The last time Garcia was there, the New York crowd hassled him for constantly regripping and waggling the club. Garcia responded by pointing to them, using the wrong finger.
Seven years later, not much has changed.
April 15, 2009