I like a bit of needle in sport. Not the steroid or EPO injecting needle of course, but the kind of competitive jostling that injects added spice to professional sport. I’m talking Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frasier, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.
Inevitably, these rivalries can escalate to un-sporting levels, a level that blurs the line between spice and stain. Sergio Garcia had a good look at that line a few days ago, and then he took out a shotgun and blew it to oblivion.
What on earth was going through Garcia’s mind I will never know, but whatever it was, it had plenty of empty space in which to fester.
Garcia’s now famed “fried chicken” comment was so brainless, one would have to argue the merits of having his jaw wired shut. He was already fighting a losing verbal battle with Tiger Woods, and a veteran of six Ryder Cups and huge international experience should simply know better.
The fact that Garcia was still commenting on his recent spat with Woods as late as this Monday suggests that his management team has failed abysmally in controlling their clients off-course behaviour. These guys are well-oiled money-making machines, and need to be handled carefully but firmly.
Of course the buck stops with the player himself, but I have absolutely no doubt that if Garcia was still part of the IMG management stable — whom he left in 2010 — this would never have happened.
I’d like to be able to think that if Garcia just kept his mouth shut in future and let his golf do the talking that this would all blow over, but it won’t. It’s still unclear what the financial implications of his remarks will be, but he will most certainly suffer the wrath of galleries throughout the golfing world, but particularly in the US.
There is only one person that can save Garcia’s reputation now, and that, ironically, is Tiger Woods.
If Woods and Garcia were to have it out personally, followed by a statement by Woods clearing the Spaniard of any wrongdoing, there may be some hope of recovery. Without that, this will be a mill stone around Garcia’s neck for a long time to come and will seriously damage his career.
Could that possibly happen? Yes, and you may call me crazy, but I believe it will.
Tiger’s had his fair share of grovelling to do in the recent past, but it will be Garcia on bended knee when the pair eventually meet face to face. Woods holds all the cards here; he’ll let Garcia stew in his own mess for a while, but will eventually put him out of his misery.