Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Golf [Print without images]

Friday, May 3, 2013
Sergio Garcia cleared of infraction

By Bob Harig
ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sergio Garcia discussed a possible rules violation with PGA Tour officials at Quail Hollow Golf Club after a television viewer called in because it appeared he had marked his ball improperly on the 17th green.

Garcia was cleared of the infraction -- a two-stroke penalty -- but not before informing officials he would rather take the penalty if there was any hint of wrongdoing.

If this is going to make anyone think I'm a cheater, I'd rather get a two-stroke penalty and move on than not to get a two-stroke penalty and think I'm cheating.

-- Sergio Garcia

"I said to them, 'The way I've been brought up in this game by my father is the game is bigger than anybody else,' " Garcia said after shooting 68 in the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship to tie for 13th, five strokes behind leader Phil Mickelson. "If this is going to make anyone think I'm a cheater, I'd rather get a two-stroke penalty and move on than not to get a two-stroke penalty and think I'm cheating.

"Obviously, we talked about it for a while. I gave them the explanation. I tried to put it in the same spot that it was."

Mark Russell, the tour's vice president of competition, met with Garcia to review video of the incident. Russell even called the United States Golf Association to get clarification, and the discussion lasted more than 30 minutes.

Russell, a longtime rules official, was among the officials at the Masters three weeks ago when Tiger Woods was involved in a controversial decision after he had taken an illegal drop. In that case, a viewer -- who happened to be former USGA and PGA Tour rules official David Eger -- noticed the possible infraction and got in touch with his former colleagues.

Woods ended up being assessed a two-stroke penalty, but avoided disqualification after signing his scorecard for the wrong score due to what the rules committee deemed to be its error.

In Garcia's case, he reviewed the situation before signing his card Friday.

According to the caller and television replays, it appeared Garcia marked his ball to the side with a coin, then replaced his ball in front of the coin.

"It's difficult to put it in the same exact spot every single time," said Garcia, who attempted to demonstrate for reporters what he did. "If they looked at every player, they'd be penalizing everyone in every round."

Garcia explained that he did not want to step in the line of Bill Haas, who was playing in his group. So he marked the ball from the side.

"I put it (back) obviously as close as I could, with the coin still behind the ball," Garcia said. "It looked like it might have moved a tiny bit, but the rules officials felt that, obviously, I didn't gain anything by it."

And that wasn't all that happened to Garcia, who clearly was frustrated on Quail Hollow's greens, which are in poor shape due to poor spring conditions. Two greens had to be completely resodded last week, four greens are in poor condition and the rest are not up to typical tour standards.

After the tournament, all of the greens are being replaced with Bermuda grass -- they are currently a less heat tolerant bent grass -- in advance of the 2017 PGA Championship, which will be played at the course.

On the third green, after a poor putt left him 5 feet way but with a large spike mark in his line, Garcia took out a wedge and chipped the ball over the spot and into the hole.

"I looked at it and the only way I can make this putt is if I get lucky," Garcia said. "Couldn't see how it would happen. It would hit the spike mark and go way to the left. So I thought the only way I have of making this is if we started playing stymies (like) in the 1920s. .. Just need to chip it over and hopefully it rolls down the hill. I was lucky to get it right, I guess."

Later, Garcia, ranked 14th in the world, hurt his lower back on his tee shot at the 10th hole. He played the rest of the back nine in obvious distress, although he managed to finish at 4-under par for the tournament.

"You could see I was struggling to get my right side through it," Garcia said. "I started losing shots to the right. I'm going to treat it tonight and hopefully it feels good tomorrow. If it doesn't feel good and the way the greens are and with the way my back is, I might not play. Hopefully I can feel fine and hit through the ball nicely and with good aggressiveness and speed."