Spain's Sergio Garcia speaks during a press conference at the LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah at the Royal Greens Golf Club on October 15, 2022
King Abdullah Economic City (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) - LIV Golf recruit Sergio Garcia said his days on the European Tour could be over on Saturday after he was fined by the circuit for pulling out of a tournament.
The 2017 Masters champion and Ryder Cup stalwart said he felt “more welcomed and loved” on Saudi-funded LIV, where he has been one of the star attractions in its debut season.
Spain’s Garcia, 42, was reportedly fined by the European Tour for failing to medically explain his withdrawal from last month’s BMW PGA Championship after an opening round of 76.
“I don’t know. As of now, it doesn’t look like it. But we’ll see,” the 16-time European winner said, when asked if he would play on the tour again.
“At the end of the day I want to play where people want me, where people are excited to have me and where I feel like I’m welcomed and loved.
“And right now that’s here, that’s LIV and I’m very excited about it.”
Garcia has three top-10 finishes in six events so far on the lucrative circuit, which has split golf and angered the established tours by poaching top players for exorbitant fees.
The Spaniard, who is also a team captain in the 54-hole, no-cut series, is tied for third on nine-under-par 131 behind leader Peter Uihlein at this week’s $25 million Jeddah Invitational.
Victory in round three on Sunday would earn him at least $4 million – more than double the $1.98 million he pocketed for his famous win at Augusta five years ago.
- ‘Lone wolf mentality’ -
Garcia wore shorts and a left-knee brace at par-70 Royal Greens in King Abdullah Economic City, and said he would have a scan next week to see if he needs meniscus surgery.
“It might need a little clean-up or something. I’ll know more next week when I have a proper MRI and take a look at it,” Garcia said.
“It sucks because I’ve been very fortunate with injuries throughout my career, I’ve been very healthy, and to play through one it’s not the most enjoyable thing.”
Uihlein had an eagle-birdie finish to edge ahead of fellow American and team-mate Brooks Koepka, the overnight leader, by one shot at the top of the leaderboard on 12-under 128.
He said he preferred the team format – where players can also win money depending on their collective scores with three team-mates – compared to the “lone wolf mentality” of the US PGA Tour.
South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, who shares third with Garcia and won the opening LIV tournament in London, said it was impossible to compare the new circuit with the “prestige” of a major victory.
“The Masters, winning a green jacket is the biggest achievement that you can do in our game, I believe,” he said.
“I won a lot of money, it was fantastic,” Schwartzel added. “But I cannot compare it to winning a green jacket.”
LIV, which bills itself as “golf, but louder” has positioned itself as a disruptor in an industry dominated by the PGA Tour and its strategic ally, the European Tour.
Critics have branded LIV, along with other Saudi sports ventures, as an act of “sportswashing” – using high-profile events as a distraction from the conservative kingdom’s human rights record.