Garcia outburst proves need for him to take stock

FOR anyone wondering why Sergio Garcia has decided to take a two-month break from golf after this week’s USPGA Championship, it should become abundantly clear by checking out his latest gift to the world of YouTube.

Already on the back foot during a difficult opening round at Whistling Straits, the Spaniard blew his top in a greenside bunker after a poor shot out of the sand. And the sand paid the price.

Like Basil Fawlty taking a branch to his beleaguered Austin estate car and giving it a “damn good thrashing”, Garcia took his wedge and administered a sound beating to the bunker, giving it five strong whacks in a startling loss of composure on the way to a bogey.

It is clear that Garcia needs to get his head straightened out and that eight-week break cannot come soon enough. The way he negotiated the Straits Course on Thursday night could well mean his holiday starts today, when he is due to complete his fog-delayed second round and possibly miss the halfway cut.

Garcia’s first-round, six-over-par 78 was sadly typical of the Spaniard’s steady decline in form, which has been reflected in his slide down the world golf rankings. A mere 16 months ago, he was number two in the world. Today he is number 50.

His decision to take a break meant he was foregoing the FedEx Cup play-off series on the PGA Tour and effectively ruling himself out of contention for a Ryder Cup wild card selection on the European team he has represented since becoming its youngest ever player at 19 in 1999 at Brookline.

Back then, as he marched up that fairway at Medinah having played out of the trees in the 1999 US PGA, and a month later at Brookline, he was ‘El Nino’, the boy wonder.

These days, at 30, and with a broken heart since the end of his relationship with Morgan-Leigh Norman, the daughter of Australian golfer Greg Norman, in early 2009, he is more like ‘el No-No’ on the golf course, a semi-final appearance at the WGC-Accenture Matchplay his only top-10 finish this year.

“It’s been a long year,” Garcia said after last Sunday after the Bridgestone Invitational. “I haven’t had a nice, long break my whole career. I need a break. I need to miss the game a little bit.”

There had been the possibility that by making his announcement ahead of the USPGA he could have lifted some sort of mental obstacle and unburdened himself in readiness for the final major of the year.

Alternatively, one could say that if Garcia had decided you’ve had enough, why did he not bail out there and then.

Events since have proven the latter to be the case and if nothing else, Garcia will have had confirmation that his decision was the right one.

First European captain Colin Montgomerie dismissed Garcia as a potential wild card pick for Celtic Manor in October, saying the Spaniard would have to win at Whistling Straits this weekend if he was to make the Ryder Cup squad.

Then came the meltdown en route to that 78 on Thursday, just one stroke better than Monty.

Paul Casey had endured a slump of his own before reconnecting with the game and flying into the world top 10 and the Englishman wished his Ryder Cup team-mate well.

“For me it was regaining my love for the game,” Casey said on Tuesday. “I had to first learn to enjoy myself on the golf course. And then once I could enjoy myself on the golf course, even just in a social sort of setting, then the competition side came back very quickly, the competitive side.

“It was also for me a reflection that if you don’t have stuff in the right place, or if you’re not happy away from the golf course, then you’re not going to find it on the golf course.

“I want to see the happy, smiley Sergio again. I don’t know what’s going on with Sergio inside, but it’s the same thing; as soon as I see him smiling again, I think the great golf that we’ve seen from Sergio will come back.”

A Ryder Cup without Garcia will be the poorer for it but more importantly, we need to see the Sergio of old return to the fold.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox