Golf is a unique sport as far as the outside observer’s experience is concerned. While there’s always that thin rope separating the spectator from the players, we often get to know golfers better than many other athletes. Not only are they not covered by helmets and team uniforms, but they’re known to be some of the most accessible, charitable people in all of sport.
Perhaps that’s what leads to us paying so much attention to how they interact with each other, as well. One of the stories of the 2013 season that just never seemed to go away revolved around Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia‘s rivalry, which has roots over a decade ago but boiled over during the Players Championship. Garcia blamed Woods for causing a distraction during a shot, later made an off-color joke about having Woods over for dinner, and the whole mess carried over through the U.S. Open at Merion.
Obviously, Woods’s return to the top of the golf world made this an even hotter topic with every talking head or guy with a keyboard (yours truly included). As is his normal tactic when these battles arise, Woods seemed to publicly rise above it, but his dismissal of Garcia ironically made it that much harder to move past. Garcia ended up apologizing for his remarks dozens of times, and Woods continued to hand-wave the issue as if Garcia wasn’t worth his time.
Garcia spends a good amount of time on the European Tour, where he can get some separation from the constant shadow of the world’s No. 1 player, but fans around the United States haven’t been so quick to forgive or forget. Garcia is still heckled at tournaments, but he says he’s trying to use the experience to grow as a person.
“The most important thing is learning from all those things…. I’m making sure that all those experiences make you stronger, a better person and things like that,” Garcia said in a recent CNN interview, adding that he hopes to “keep getting better at it, and hopefully keep making people happy.”
Garcia was having a great start to his 2013 season before the Players collapse derailed his season, but he had two top-ten finishes in the FedEx Cup playoffs and has two more to start the 2013-14 PGA Tour season. It’s clear that he’s being genuine in his remorse for the Woods spat, and he seemingly has a new competitive fire.
Garcia is the type of player who wears his heart on his sleeve, and while it isn’t always pretty, it’s what draws people to him both on and off the course. He’s had the weight of immense expectations on him his entire career, and deserves to move forward with a clean slate.