European TourFebruary 2, 2019

Sergio Garcia disqualified from Saudi International for "serious misconduct" after being accused of purposely damaging greens

Sergio Garcia
Andrew Redington

What has already been an eventful year regarding players and the new Rules of Golf took a bizarre turn on Saturday when Sergio Garcia was disqualified from the European Tour’s Saudi International. Tour officials deemed the 39-year-old Spaniard had committed “serious misconduct” under new Rule 1.2a during the third round at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.

Garcia had posted a one-over 71 and was well back of the leaders after opening with rounds of 69 and 70. But according to reports, he was accused by fellow golfers playing in groups behind him of purposely hitting his putter into the greens during the round on a handful of holes, causing damage to the putting surfaces. Officials decided Garcia’s actions were significant enough to warrant disqualification.

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In a statement, Garcia said: “I respect the decision of my disqualification. I damaged a couple of greens, for which I apologize for, and I have informed my fellow players it will never happen again.”

Rule 1.2a specifies the standards of player conduct and states:

All players are expected to play in the spirit of the game by:
• Acting with integrity—for example, by following the Rules, applying all penalties, and being honest in all aspects of play.
• Showing consideration to others—for example, by playing at a prompt pace, looking out for the safety of others, and not distracting the play of another player.
• Taking good care of the course—for example, by replacing divots, smoothing bunkers, repairing ball-marks, and not causing unnecessary damage to the course.

There is no penalty under the Rules for failing to act in this way, except that the Committee may disqualify a player for acting contrary to the spirit of the game if it finds that the player has committed serious misconduct.

Rule 1.2 is part of the new Rules of Golf that went into effect on Jan. 1. Here is an explanation of the new rule from the USGA:

Rule 1.2a consolidates the expected standards of player conduct:

It declares that players are expected to play in the spirit of the game by acting with integrity, showing consideration to others and taking good care of the course.

It unequivocally states the Committee’s authority to disqualify a player for any serious misconduct that is contrary to the spirit of the game.

In place of the unclear previous concept of “breach of etiquette”, it uses the more direct and stronger phrases “misconduct” and “serious misconduct.”

This wasn't the first time Garcia's frustrations had manifested themselves on the course this week. A day earlier, Garcia lost his temper after failing to get his ball out of a bunker on the par-5 fourth hole. Garcia felt his lie was worse than it should have been because of a bad rake job by a previous group. After eventually getting his ball out, he took several angry swipes with his club at the bunker. He bogeyed two of his last four holes to finish with an even-par 70.

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