Commentary

For Sergio Garcia, break a smart move

Originally Published: August 13, 2010
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- Sergio Garcia, once the heir obvious to Tiger Woods, is making himself disappear now that he's missed the cut here Saturday. It makes sense, since his game has been on a milk carton for nearly two years.

Garcia's self-imposed leave of absence began the minute his PGA Championship ended at Whistling Straits. The way he played his first round, that would have been Friday. But another fog delay (is this London?) pushed Garcia's second-round starting time to early evening, where darkness prevented him from finishing.

[+] EnlargeSergio Garcia
AP Photo/M. Spencer GreenBack in 1999, Sergio Garcia jumped into American homes at the PGA Championship. Little did we know that 10 years later, he still would be without a major championship victory.

Garcia's first major championship win isn't going to come this week. The way he has played these past 18 months, it might never come.

"I need the break," Garcia told The Associated Press a week ago. "I need to miss the game a little bit."

Exactly nobody thought Garcia would be headed toward his 31st birthday without at least one major (or a handful) in his back pocket. Nobody thought the kid who joyfully burst into the national consciousness with his near takedown of Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship would be calling it a season in mid-August. And nobody thought Garcia would play so gruesomely in Round 1 that not even European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie could invent a reason to pick him.

Asked Friday whether he could envision a scenario in which Garcia (and his 14-6-4 Ryder Cup record) could make the team, Montgomerie didn't bother with diplomacy.

"At this stage, it's not looking likely, no," he said.

If you thought Woods had golf issues, you should see Garcia. He hasn't won since 2008. His putter hates him. In the past 16 months, he's gone from the No. 2-ranked player in the world (just behind Woods) to the 50th.

During Thursday's round, Garcia threw a tantrum for the ages after blasting a shot from a greenside bunker. YouTube it; it's one of the great golf meltdowns.

First he beat the wedge into the ground five times, and then he flung the bruised club in the general direction of his golf bag. Typical Garcia. It's always somebody (or something) else's fault.

"The game makes you do crazy things," said second-round leader Matt Kuchar, who, like Garcia, was a celebrated young player. "And whether it's expectations or not, it's the game of golf. I think that there wouldn't be a single player out here that hasn't considered taking two months off, taking more time than that off. ... I think it's a healthy thing to do, and I think that sometimes your body and your mind need a break sometimes."

I won't miss him. Garcia's innocence in 1999 at Medinah was slowly replaced by petulance and arrogance. He became harder and harder to root for.

His 2010 has been a mess. He has one top-five finish on the PGA Tour and one top-five finish on the European Tour. His majors: a T-45 at the Masters, a T-22 at the U.S. Open, a T-14 at the British Open and a missed cut at the PGA Championship.

"Whether Sergio -- and I want to be careful how to say this -- has allowed himself to be built up more than was good for him, I don't know," said Chubby Chandler, who represents, among others, the latest "next Tiger Woods," Rory McIlroy. "You're absolutely right: He has been put on a pedestal and has been expected to do all of this very early. And I suppose Rory has, too. ... He certainly is somebody for Rory to learn from, to learn what's sort of happened to Sergio."

Garcia could have almost certainly played in the upcoming The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank FedEx Cup playoff events, and possibly the BMW Championship. Do well there, and he might have played his way into a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup.

Instead, Garcia, a five-time Ryder Cup team member, is taking those two months off and not returning until a late-October event in his hometown in Spain. But the truth is, he played like he checked out during -- not after -- the PGA Championship.

"You can see with Sergio, even when he was playing reasonably well, he wouldn't seem like a happy fellow," Chandler said. "I think in the end, what's happened, that attitude ... or that state of mind has actually then gone through to his golf."

Maybe it was the comparisons to legendary Spanish star Seve Ballesteros. Maybe it was the majors near misses or the mocking New York galleries at Bethpage counting off his regrips. Maybe it was the fistfights with his putter or the breakup with girlfriend Morgan-Leigh Norman. Whatever the combo platter of reasons, Garcia is at a career crossroads.

Or maybe not.

"When you get to winter, I get two months off," Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez said after his Friday round. "If he wants to take two months off, what's the problem?"

Added Chandler: "[It's] probably a good idea. He's been playing constantly for probably 12 years. ... To get your enthusiasm for the game, what's the best thing to do? Get away from it for a while."

Fair enough, except that this isn't winter. It's August. There's still plenty of pizza left in this season's box. There just isn't anything left in Garcia.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

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