Jun 7, 2013, 3:22 PM EDT
We’re still a week away from the U.S. Open at Merion, and ESPN golf analyst and two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North has already committed Philly Sports Fan Cardinal Sin No. 1.
`ESPN’s Andy North on the week Sergio will face at Merion: “It’s a great sports city. But remember, this is a city that booed Santa Claus.”
— Steve Elling (@EllingYelling) June 6, 2013
Golf can be kind of peculiar to non-followers. For example, prior to post-fire-hydrant Tiger Woods, the sport never really had a villain. Many would argue, given the overwhelming support Tiger continues to receive from galleries, that it still doesn’t. Everybody just sort of roots for everybody and good golf is more important in many cases than exactly who wins.
In their own way, these guys are all kind of fan favorites. …Except maybe for Sergio.
Garcia burst onto the scene in a duel with Woods at the 1999 PGA at Medinah. You may have seen this shot from the base of a tree and his hop, skip and a jump up the fairway once or one billion times:
But it wasn’t long before American galleries turned on him.
The New York crowd at the U.S. Open at Bethpage in 2002 was particularly unfriendly, booing and cursing as he gripped and re-gripped his club over and over. I vaguely remember a counter getting up to over 20 re-grips for just one shot, but I quite clearly remember Sergio fighting back by flipping off spectators.
His game has gone up and down ever since — it actually | went straight | to hell | for a while — and he now (pretty much inarguably) holds the ignoble title of being The Best Player Who Still Hasn’t Won a Major.
Most recently, golf fans witnessed his ridiculous dust up with Tiger Woods at this year’s Players Championship, his collapse on the 17th hole…
…and his controversial comments about fried chicken. It’s worth noting that the fans at Sawgrass jeered Sergio for twice hitting his ball in the water even before he said anything about hosting Woods for dinner. Next week’s U.S. Open will be Garcia’s first big-time American tournament since the incident.
But all that stuff ignores some other truths about Garcia. Namely, that he’s one of the best pure ball strikers in the history of the game and is starting to concrete his status as one of golf’s most tortured souls. Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman are two charter members of the small club of guys who have endured as much or more heartbreak on the game’s biggest stages … and Phil’s still won four majors.
Fans love redemption — the examples are endless — and as Tiger Woods continues to profess, “Winning takes care of everything.”
So here’s the real question: If Sergio Garcia is contending on the back nine on Sunday, are you with him or are you against him?
[For more of the Level's 2013 U.S. Open coverage click here]
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