By Zak Kozuchowski
GolfWRX Managing Editor
If Sergio Garcia wins The Barclays tomorrow at Bethpage Black, the following things will happen:
1. With back-to-back victories, Garcia will be considered the hottest hand in golf. Although he withdrew from next week’s Deutsch Bank Championship, he will become one of the favorites to win the PGA Tour’s FedExCup Playoffs.
2. Garcia will become the de facto leader of the European Ryder Cup team, which is impressive considering he did not ensure a spot on Jose Maria Olazabal’s team until Monday, when he won the rain-delayed Wyndham Championship.
3. Garcia’s play will convince us that he can and will win a major championship.
All of these arguments are valid. For years, Garcia has proven that he is one of the Tour’s best ball strikers, and his 14-6-4 Ryder Cup record is evidence that he is one of golf’s most fiery competitors. At times though, he’s been a little too fiery.
The 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black was an example of his combustable nature — “Sergio being Sergio” you might call it. Garcia, who was 22 at the time, was having trouble pulling the trigger over his shots. The video reply is painful to watch — waggle, regrip, waggle, regrip, etc.
Not surprisingly, Garcia was taunted by a few New York City golf fans for his lengthy preshot routine. So Garcia did what every athlete has wanted to do to New York sports fans at times. He flipped them the bird.
Similar stories of abnormal behavior from Garcia have accumulated over the years. There was the time he spit in the cup at Doral, the time he kicked his shoe down the fairway in the World Match Play and the time he kicked a sign on the European Tour. Maybe the strangest thing Garcia has ever done was to say after a disappointing weekend at the 2012 Masters that he wasn’t good enough to win a major.
But Garcia is good enough to win a major. And he shouldn’t need a win at The Barclays to prove it. He certainly doesn’t need to win at Bethpage Black to redeem himself to New York City golf fans for his lapse in judgement, either.
Yes, Garcia has provided golf fans with several uncomfortable moments over the years, but he’s also given us a unfiltered glimpse into the thoughts of a top Tour player. Those emotional outbursts we complain about? They’re the same emotions we love in the Ryder Cup. The immature excuses Garcia has made at times? They’re the foundation of the confidence he has displayed in his 18 victories across the globe.
When we’re talking about Sergio Garcia’s future, what we’re really talking about is his putting. And right now, he’s rolling putts better than ever with his right hand positioned in a pencil-style grip. Garcia accepted that he would never be a great putter with a conventional-style grip, and has adapted well enough with the new grip to rank in the top 30 in the Tour’s strokes gained — putting statistic.
Maybe we need to look at Garcia the same way as he’s come to look at putting. He’s never going to be conventional. He’s not going to do it the way others have. But he can still get it done.
And I hope he does.
You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz and GolfWRX at @GolfWRX