News & ToursJanuary 16, 2014

Garcia cleared of illegally tapping down spike mark (Updated)

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

__Update, Friday a.m.:__The European Tour has cleared Garcia of any wrongdoing after Garcia explained he was legally flattening a pitch mark. The tour brought the player in to review footage when he arrived at National Course for his second round. In a statement, the tour said "[Rules official] John Paramor is satisfied with Sergio's version of the matter and that is the end of the issue."

Earlier: Watch out, we might have another European Tour spike mark-tapping controversy on our hands. And this time, it involves Sergio Garcia.

A video surfaced Thursday of Sergio Garica tapping down what may have been a spike mark in his line on the 14th hole of his first round at the HSBC Championship. Garcia shot four over 76 on Thursday, leaving him T-104 after one round.

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The evidence itself is far from incriminating because, as GolfCentralDaily.com, the website that first spotted the video, points out, he could be tapping down a ball mark that he had previously repaired.

Nevertheless, less than two months after punishing Simon Dyson for a similar infraction, it could potentially evolve into another unwanted high-profile rules incident for the European Tour.

Related: Dyson Fined, On Double Secret Probation Over Spike Mark Tap

And for Sergio Garcia, it could once again land him in the middle of a debate he would rather not be a part of. Aside from his various controversial remarks, most notably about Tiger Woods after the 2013 Players Championship -- a comment he has since apologized for -- Garcia has been accused of cheating before.

At the 2007 Players Championship, Garcia was accused of taking an illegal drop by Cliff Kresge's caddie.

"Cliff's caddie wanted to make a big deal, but it wasn't," said Garcia on that occasion. "I took relief from the drainage. They were calling me a cheater [but] I've never cheated in my whole life. I'd rather shoot 85 than shoot 65 cheating."

At the 2013 Wells Fargo Championship, a viewer suspected Garcia had moved his ball closer to the hole, although rules officials decided not to issue a penalty. The following week, at the Players Championship, Garcia was again suspected of tapping down a spike mark in his line after a video surfaced online, although officials never chose to act.

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