Sergio Garcia: Players have to know rules or learn the hard way like I did

Sergio Garcia has warned against “exceptions” being made as golf’s new rules are bedding in after learning the hard way himself as he lost a tournament victory early in his career due to a breach.

Sergio Garcia at the Dubai Desert Classic. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty
Sergio Garcia at the Dubai Desert Classic. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty

In the wake of China’a Haotong Li losing around £80,000 in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday as he was hit with a two-shot penalty, European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley has urged the R&A to allow “discretion” to be used over new rules introduced at the start of this year.

“It is what it is,” said Garcia in offering his view on Li’s punishment for breaching Rule 10.2b (4) as his caddie, Mike Burrow, was alleged to have lined him up on the 72nd green. “It’s unfortunate, but the Rules of Golf are there for everyone.

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“Everybody has got their books and they should know all the new rules and the things that you can and cannot do. I understand it’s the beginning of the year and you have to be careful because you might go back to what you’ve been doing your whole life.

“I’m sure that from now on, it won’t happen to him again. It’s not the right way to learn it, but it’s the hard way. I lost the lost 2001 Greg Norman Holden International in Australia.

“I lost to Aaron Baddeley because I took a wrong drop. I asked Greg to help me with the drop, and it turned out that I took the wrong drop and then I think I ended up losing in a play-off.”

Pelley revealed he’d contact the R&A chief executive, Martin Slumbers, after feeling that the penalty handed to Li was “correct” but also “grossly unfair”.

“It is always nice for Keith to look after us but, at the same time, you’ve got to be careful because if you start making exceptions here and there, then where do you stop,” added Garcia, speaking in his press conference for the Saudi International.

“At the end of the day, when it comes down to the rules, we are responsible, we and the officials and we have to take care of it. If you make a mistake, you get penalised and that’s it. I’ve always said it; I’d rather get penalised if I’ve done something wrong than get away with it and know that I’ve done wrong.

“I don’t know if there’s other people that can live with that, but for me, it’s tough to know that I’ve done something wrong and kind of let me get away with it. I think as the year goes on, everybody will be paying a little bit more attention to it (the new rules) and they will be a little bit more careful with what they do.”