On the 7th hole at Dove Mountain, Garcia had a very makable 7-footer for par, Rickie Fowler had an 18-footer. As Fowler was about to set up his putt, Garcia gestured and asked him if he wanted to do good for good, so to speak. “I was ready to go and make the putt and put the pressure on him, but as I’m lining up to putt (Sergio) said, ‘Do you want to halve?’ Fowler recounted, following his 1-up victory over Garcia.
“What? What is he saying?
“He goes, ‘Do you want to half?’
“‘Do you want to half the hole?’
“I’m thinking in my head I kind of just want to play it out, but I would be stupid not to take a halve. I’m twice the distance he is, and we’re both putting for par. So I was like sure, why not.”
Fowler, who had missed three consecutive cuts coming into the week, was 2-down at this point and could have dropped another hole. In fact, he did on the 8th, when Sergio birdied it. Then, on the back nine, Sergio started missing short putts, which allowed Fowler to stage a comeback.
But, wait, why did Sergio concede Fowler’s putt, anyway?
Well, on the previous hole, Garcia had a ruling that took a long time and he felt badly about it. That’s right, he felt like it may have impaired Rickie because of an incident that he didn’t actually really have a lot of control over.
Asked if he regretted the sportsmanlike gesture following the loss, Sergio said he did not. “I don’t regret it at all,” said Garcia. “He played much better than me on the last ten holes and he deserves a win…”
Of course he doesn’t regret it. You can’t regret something like that, otherwise you’ll drive yourself nuts thinking about the “what ifs,” and that’s not fun.
“I feel like unfortunately the game lately hasn’t been what it should be,” said the Spaniard. ”I think that we are gentlemen. That’s the key thing in this game of golf.
“I felt guilty. I felt guilty that my drop on 6 took so long. I felt like if I would have been in his position I would have been uncomfortable waiting so long to hit my birdie putt. So I just thought I have to do something. I have to do something to make sure that I feel good with myself. And I had the opportunity on 7 to give a nice half. It wasn’t like my putt was a foot and he had to make a 15 or 16 footer. I still had a four or five footer. At least I can leave here feeling good, even though that I lost. And that’s all there is to it.”
Basically, Sergio did it to make himself feel better about slow-playing Rickie on the previous hole (even though he didn’t really slow play him). Well, that was certainly a gracious move.
Added Rickie: “He told me on the way to the next hole. He just said, ‘I felt like I took too much time.’ I was like, ‘Sure, whatever.’ “No, I’ve gotten to know Sergio quite a bit over the last year. We’ve played numerous rounds together. We’ve been paired a lot Thursdays and Fridays and into some weekends. We’ve had a lot of fun playing together. We did out there today, as well.
“Like I said earlier, just with feeling guilty about something and being able to get it off your chest, it definitely makes you feel better. I know that’s why he did it. I was just glad I was able to get the putter going and give him a match coming in.”
Naturally, we informed Graeme McDowell about the bizarre series of events and asked for his comment. “It’s the essence of fair play,” he said. “You never want to feel like you gained an advantage on an opponent through any sort of the rub of the green or anything like that. You want to win with good golf. You don’t want to win by him playing bad golf.
“It’s tough to kind of comment on and (Sergio’s) state of mind, but I think that’s what’s great about this game, is the inherent fair play and the inherent gentlemanly conduct that we generally have in the sport. But, interesting…very bizarre, but cool.
“Sergio is a great guy and he’s passionate about playing this game fairly. It says a lot about Sergio.”
Meanwhile, McDowell somehow has survived to the quarterfinals despite not having won a hole unless it was to win the match. That’s right, he has come from behind and hasn’t led a single time until making unbelievable putts to stick it to his competitor after gutting it out. It’s absolutely cray-cray.
McDowell even said he was a little embarrassed by the situation. Forget nine lives, G-Mac’s got at least 12. We’ll see how he does against the young Frenchman Victor Dubuisson on Saturday.
“I’ve just robbed three players out of this tournament,” said McDowell, on the second green following his 1-up defeat over Hunter Mahan.