Sergio weathers stormy start and hecklers
By Stephanie Wei under US Open
Kiss the putter, baby!

Kiss the putter, baby! (USA Today Sports Eileen Blass)

Heading into Merion, Sergio Garcia was naturally a bit nervous for the reception from the notoriously vociferous Philly crowd, but he knew he had to deal with the consequences of his “fried chicken” comment. The U.S. Open is always the most mentally grueling test in golf without distractions. If he had shot 80, it would have been no surprise and even understandable.

Garcia encountered the predicted troubles, but not per se by the occasional heckler — the spectators were tamer than kittens, relatively speaking. On his first tee, the 11th — no, that’s not a typo; it’s a logistical thing — there was a lone “boo.” 

There were two more instances, according to The Guardian‘s Ewan Murray:

On the 15th, one spectator shouted “Hey, Sergio, pollo frito” – a Spanish translation of fried chicken – as he walked on that fairway. Three holes later on the 18th, García was the recipient of clucking noises from the crowd.

Those three incidents proved the total of the discord. García was asked by police if he wanted to have any hecklers ejected, an offer he turned down on the basis that could magnify the situation.

Aside: Sergio speaks decent English, but if you’ve spoken with him enough (or heard enough of his pressers), then it’s clear things sometimes get lost in translation and his grasp isn’t 100% fluent. (Obviously, his English is much better than my Spanish and probably yours, too.) Here’s a good example

Q.  There were some wise cracks, how did that affect you?

SERGIO GARCIA:  Wise cracks?  What do you mean by that?

Q.  Heckles. 

SERGIO GARCIA:  No, I think there were a couple here and there, but there was  I felt the people were very nice for the whole day.  I think that they almost all of them were behind me and that was nice to see.

Okay, back to Sergio’s day. The hecklers were the least of his worries. He hit his tee shots out of bounds on two consecutive holes, the 14th and 15th, leading to a double-bogey and quadruple-bogey, respectively. He added a bogey on the 18th. Suddenly, he was seven-over.

Then somewhere during the train wreck, the horn blew. Saved by the bell, as they say. Play was suspended for almost 3 hours, 32 minutes.

Now, Sergio, who is known for playing the perpetual victim, isn’t exactly known for fighting when the going gets tough. Whether that’s accurate or perception or overblown is debatable. Probably all of the above.

The delay allowed Sergio to regroup and — surprise! — claw his way back on the front nine. He shot four-under in his remaining 10 holes, which included three birdies and an eagle, not to mention a bogey on the par-5 5th.

The damage had been done, but Sergio posted a respectable three-over 73. Not bad at all. Especially when we thought he was done-zo after the quad.

Who knew? He has some fight in him!