The damage caused to greens by Sergio Garcia in the inaugural Saudi International as he became the first player in European Tour history to be disqualified for such behaviour was a mixture of deliberate “scuff marks” and a divot hole, it has emerged.
However, The Scotsman understands that the Spaniard will not be suspended for his petulance during Saturday’s third round at Royal Greens on the Red Sea coast after not only issuing a public apology but also doing so in person to some of the players in the groups immediately behind who had called in rules officials.
It is also believed that Garcia, who became the leading points-scorer in Ryder Cup history last September, has not been made to pay back part of his appearance fee, having been one of the players that had been handsomely rewarded for teeing up in the new £3.25 million tournament that aims to put Saudi Arabia on the sporting map.
Garcia caused damage to five greens on the front nine, mainly through dragging the sole of his golf shoe across the top of the putting surface in frustration but also leaving a divot mark on the sixth green, which was still apparent during the final round even though greenstaff had quickly repaired it on Saturday.
Players in the next four groups complained to officials about the mess Garcia had made and, after finishing his round, the 39-year-old was disqualified under Rule 1.2a, which allows for that action to be taken if a player has committed serious misconduct.
Accepting the punishment, Garcia said: “I respect the decision of my disqualification. In frustration, I damaged a couple of greens, for which I apologise, and I have informed my fellow players that it will never happen again.”
There have been widespread calls on social media for Garcia, who has a history of bad behaviour on the course, though the majority of it earlier in his career, to also be hit with a suspension. However, according to the European Tour’s chief executive, Keith Pelley, the matter is now closed. “The incident is over,” he said, speaking at the event in King Abdullah Economic City. “We have dealt with it. Sergio has apologised to the players and we move on.”
That sentiment was echoed by Robert Rock, who was in the group two behind Garcia’s and was one of the players left shocked by the condition the greens had been left. “It was scuff marks and also a mark that appeared to have been made by what looked to have been a putter,” said the Englishman before heading out for the final round.
“Scuff marks really show up on these grainy greens. Even if you drag the sole of your shoe without meaning to, it pulls up the grass. The greens are good with no bald patches and scuff marks certainly show up.
“Like everyone else, I did not know who it was. I wasn’t sure if it was one person or more people. I have spoken to Sergio about it. He faced up to it and we are fine. Everyone makes a mistake at some point.”
Garcia was also defended by his playing partner on Saturday, Italian youngster Renato Paratore. “I was not complaining,” he replied to being asked if he’d been aware of damage being inflicted. “It was a bad day for him and I saw only one hole when he was doing something wrong. I don’t remember what it was. I was focused on what I was doing. But it is okay.”
Garcia had already slammed a club into a bunker in Friday’s second round and, after only making the cut by two shots, he was clearly still feeling frustrated on Saturday. “Yes, but that can happen on the course,” added Paratore. “I know him really well and he’s a very good guy off the course. It can happen to everyone.”
Had Garcia apologised to his younger playing partner? “Yeah, of course. And had he given any reason for his behaviour? “Everyone out here has bad days like that. It happens to a lot of players,” insisted Paratore.
The incidents were not captured by Sky Sports due to Garcia being out early in the third round and, though it is believed photographs of some of the damage were taken on mobile phones by rules officials, they have not been released.
“I went out after the referees had spoken to me,” said David Williams, the tournament director. “I got to him [Garcia] around the 12th and 13th and there had been no more damage after nine holes. I told him this was a disqualifiable offence. He was in his game zone, but he listened. We exchanged a few pleasantries and then he nodded and carried on walking.
“It was obviously not a good situation to be in. He was obviously very frustrated and it is something very unusual to happen. Some of the marks were similar to what we sometimes see out in South Africa when a buck has run across a green. Over here it could have been a camel.
“The players in the groups immediately behind didn’t know what was going on. They wanted to know what was happening to the greens. To be honest, they were pretty shocked. As news started to spread, Keith Pelley got involved and, after holding a meeting with [senior referee] Andy McFee, he spoke to Sergio after the round. There were no other players involved.”
Garcia attended a reception hosted by His Excellency Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan, chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation, on a luxury yacht moored in the marina at King Abdullah Economic City on Saturday night before flying to Switzerland. It is unknown when he is due to play next.