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 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 has 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’s disqualification overshadowed an event won by American Dustin Johnson as he held off China’s Haotong Li and England’s Tom Lewis on a thrilling final day for a two-shot success.
It was Johnson’s 20th worldwide victory and now means he has triumphed at least once in the past 12 years.
“To get a win here is big, and gives me a lot of confidence going for the rest of the year,” said the big-hitter after closing with a 67 for a 19-under-par 261 total.