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NORTON — It’s a common impulsion among golfers — professional and amateur, old and young — to pound a club into the soil following a vexing shot.
Just try not to break the thing in the process.
Spain’s fiery, beloved enigma, Sergio Garcia, serves as a cautionary tale of what can happen when one does succumb to the brimming frustration golf so frequently imposes upon those who play it.
On the fourth hole at TPC Boston on Sunday, Garcia was putting from off the green for eagle. Never one to suppress his emotions, Garcia slammed his putter into a sprinkler head after his ball failed to reach the desired ledge of the green. Though the putter wasn’t broken, Garcia immediately noticed it was bent, and was thus unfit for play.
Unable to replace it, Garcia was staring at 14 holes of putter-less golf.
The early returns were better than expected. Using his 3-wood, Garcia calmly sank the 13-foot putt he’d left himself for birdie on No. 4, acting as though the two clubs were interchangeable.
His relative bliss was short-lived.
On No. 5, he made bogey. On six, he followed suit. The par putts of 11 and 8 feet were far from foregone conclusions — if there’s been one shortcoming of Garcia’s vaunted game throughout the years, it’s his inconsistency on the greens — but the clunky nature of using such a large clubface for such a precise, delicate task surely didn’t help his cause.
Disenchanted with the fairway wood, Garcia turned to his driver. That didn’t last long, either. On No. 9, he suffered a particularly embarrassing fate, his 6-inch par putt rattling out for an opening-nine 39. It took Garcia 12 putts to get through the five holes following his outburst.
Though known as a gentlemanly sport, golf has a rich history of treating clubs as disposable pieces of metal worthy of scorn.
At the 2010 PGA Championship, Garcia lost his cool in more exaggerated fashion. Irked by a poor bunker shot that had settled well short of the hole, the Spaniard went for broke, dealing his short stick a series of five stark blows before firing it in the vicinity of his bag. A year later at the Thailand Golf Championship, he went haywire off the tee, then did so again with his provisional, slinging the iron that had betrayed him violently into the water lining the hole.
Garcia’s psyche has long been of deep fascination to golf fans. Back in 2012, after a particularly disheartening round at Augusta National, a beleaguered Garcia told reporters, “In 13 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.
“I’m not good enough,” he groused, then clarified that he wasn’t only referring to the Masters but “any major.”
As Garcia aged, his trademark passion gave way to a more serene, content demeanor. The shift was evident in April when, at 37, he tore apart those famed Augusta grounds en route to his first green jacket.
But the fire still burns.
Under the circumstances, Garcia’s closing nine Sunday went about as well as could be expected. Turning to his 3-iron, the veteran carded three straight pars before holing a 12-footer for birdie on No. 13. He gave it back two holes later — a 5-foot miss — and sunk one more birdie on No. 17, from 8 feet.
His tumultuous day concluded on the par-5 18th, which Garcia needed seven shots to see through. Though he had other clubs to blame for the closing double bogey, it was a fitting end to a day gone awry.
Still, above all else, golf is a game of honor.
Said Garcia after his 4-over-par round of 75, “I wasn’t going to cheat.”
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