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|Some say Sergio has been a tad too demonstrative - some would say crowing - through the Euros' Ryder Cup dominance. (PGA of America)|
I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about Sergio Garcia these days. He's been both reviled and praised by the U.S. media so often, I'm not sure if I officially like him or if I'm supposed to root against him.
The situation is further complicated by the fact I'm both an American golf fan and, officially anyway, a member of the media.
The 28-year-old Spaniard has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the American media as well as with American golf fans. The same could be said about Garcia's view of the aforementioned. It's very complicated. Why can't he be more like fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, who showed a consistent, though contentious, relationship with American media and was great at needling American players?
Garcia doesn't needle. He whines, but he doesn't needle.
Remember when he was the wonder boy when he finished second to Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship in 1999?
People recognized his extraordinary talent and that youthful, Spanish flair, and wanted more.
They got it, and much of it they didn't like.
It probably started at the U.S. Open at Bethpage. That's when Garcia went on a weird tirade against USGA officials, saying that, by God, if it had been Woods playing in that rain that he, Garcia, had to play in, the USGA would have suspended play.
It probably didn't help Garcia's mood that he had been the target of some fan comments about his re-gripping problem, which slowed golf - a slow game under any circumstances - to a glacial crawl. Garcia had to back off several shots. Whether it was due to his problem or the comments we may never know, but his - shall we say "hand gesture"? - to the crowds and his whining about it afterward didn't exactly endear him to the galleries.
Then there is his Ryder Cup behavior. There's no doubt Europeans love to beat the U.S., but Garica has been at times a tad too demonstrative - some would say crowing - all through the Euros' latest dominance.
Like the time at the Belfry in 2002 when he ran down the fairway like a wild man after Paul McGinley sank the winning putt. Nice enthusiasm, but Davis Love III and Pierre Fulke happened to still be playing on the 18th fairway. Love wasn't happy about it, eventually conceding the hole and halving the match.
Then there was the British Open last year when he lost to Paddy Harrington in a playoff after blowing a three-shot lead on the final day.
After the '99 PGA Championship, people wanted more of Sergio Garcia's youthful, Spanish flair. They got it, and much of it they didn't like.
Our man wasn't exactly graceful in defeat, blaming his collapse on everything from bad bounces, the group playing ahead of him, the phase of the moon and even maintenance workers who were too slow to rake the bunkers.
"I'm playing against a lot of guys out there," he told the media afterward. "More than the field."
He neglected to mention all the putts he missed or his approach shot in the bunker.
Americans - nor anybody else, for that matter - aren't wild about whiners.
Many of the best athletes on the planet use some sort of external motivating factor, and for many of them, that's the media. Garcia is no different in that respect.
"Definitely," Garcia admitted to reporters. "Gives me something to prove."
At this year's U.S. Open, many touted Garcia as one of the favorites. Yet he played only one practice round and admitted he hadn't looked at the course as late as Tuesday afternoon. His opening-round 76 pretty much took him out of it, though he followed that with excellent play.
Garcia has seemed to rebound from much of this ill will, though. In fact, if you will remember, he was in a series of beer commercials, involving a girl in a swimming pool. American beer companies don't use people Americans hate in their ads.
Garcia has always seemed like a guy destined for greatness. He is certainly one of the best ball-strikers on tour, betrayed in these last few years only by his putter, which he is loathe to admit to the media. He has fulfilled some of his early promise with wins on both the American and European tours, but he's always faltered in the ultimate golf limelight, the majors.
He's been called that hated phrase "best player to never win a major." He has impishly implied that title might go to Adam Scott instead, but here are Garcia's numbers: Zero for 36 in the majors.
And, of course, he won The Players this year, the biggest win of his career. He putted well, showing that his work with short-game maestro Stan Utley is paying off.
Breaking it down simplistically, Garcia reverted to his early putting form, back when he was a wonder kid.
"When I play like a kid, I usually do well," he said.
Too bad he can't say the same about much of his behavior.
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