Sergio García’s gesture of conceding opponent Rickie Fowler’s 17-foot par putt on the seventh hole of their Friday match was as generous as it was unusual.
When García wound up losing 1-up to Fowler in the third round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, what García did as a sporting gesture took on another layer of texture.
“This is a gentleman’s game and lately it hasn’t felt like that,” García said. “This is the way I was brought up.”
Here’s what happened:
García had a 2-up lead when his tee shot on the par-3 sixth hole stopped just off the green, near a sprinkler head where standing water had attracted bees. García sought and received relief from the bees.
After taking his initial drop, García still felt uncomfortable as the bees began flying near him.
“There were probably at least 20 bees there. I had some bad experiences with bees as a youngster,” García said.
Given a second drop after a lengthy delay, García played his shot and they halved the hole with pars.
On the seventh green, Fowler had a 17-footer for par while García was just inside 7 feet away for par. García four times offered to go ‘good-good’ on the putts before Fowler realized he was serious.
“I had to kind of find out what he was offering there,” Fowler said.
García said the idea came to him on the previous green.
“I thought about picking the ball up on my par putt (at No. 6) but I felt that would have been more rude than anything,” García said. “I was hoping he was going make that putt at six to forget about it but he didn’t.”
García said he “felt guilt more than anything” about causing the delay at No. 6.
“I have to do something to make sure I feel good about myself,” said García, who birdied the eighth hole to take a 3-up lead.
From there, Fowler made five birdies including one on the 18th hole to win the match.
“I don’t regret it at all,” García said. “I felt like it was the best thing for the game and for me.”
In Abu Dhabi last month, García was accused of a rules violation before being cleared, an incident that bothered him. While making himself feel better, García acknowledged he hopes his gesture is viewed in a broader sense.
“I hope so,” García said. “At the end of the day it’s going to make me feel better and that’s the important thing and I hope it does help everybody around the game. That’s pretty much the thing I was trying to do.”