The European Tour’s inaugural Saudi International, a tournament already beset by bad publicity, has been afforded a further layer of controversy following the disqualification of Sergio García. The 2017 Masters championdamaged multiple greens in frustration during his third round. Players in the groups immediately behind García are understood to have voiced their upset after being forced to encounter this spoiled turf.
García, who is no stranger to fits of pique on the course, had narrowly made the Saudi cut following rounds of 69 and 70.
Saturday saw him sign for a 71, one over par, but he was called before European Tour officials after details emerged of clubs being smashed into putting surfaces on several occasions. The tour duly took the highly unusual step of implementing their rule 1.2a, which permits disqualification for cases of “serious misconduct”.
In a statement, García said: “I respect the decision of my disqualification. In frustration, I damaged a couple of greens, which I apologise for, and I have informed my fellow players it will never happen again.”
Keith Pelley, the European Tour’s chief executive, was involved in the disciplinary process that also involved a meeting with García’s representative.
Sky Sports curiously reserved little attention for this newsworthy situation at the conclusion of their live broadcast, with the 62 produced by China’s Li Haotong deemed worthy of far more coverage.
Pelley could have done without these antics by one of his tour’s most high-profile players. The European Tour’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia for the first time has been subject of widespread criticism on the basis of human rights infringements by the country.
It is unclear whether García was paid an appearance fee by the tournament sponsors –as was the case for Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose – and, if so, what impact his misdemeanours would have on that. Rose missed the Friday cut.
Li, who will start day four in a share of the lead with Johnson, returned four eagles during his round. In seeking to halt a two-horse race, England’s Tom Lewis will have to make up five shots if he is to win.