Is Sergio Garcia the biggest underachiever in golf?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

In an interview with Golfweek, former Ryder Cup captain Tony Jacklin said that Sergio Garcia is the biggest underachiever in golf. Jacklin goes on to say, “He’s been one of the best players on the planet for the last 20 years and doesn’t have much to show for it. Seve had more courage in his little finger than this lad. Don’t get me wrong, Sergio has been a prolific winner, but he had the ability to win double-digit majors.” What do you make of Jacklin’s comments? 

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I don’t disagree with Jacklin.  Sergio had tremendous talent, from a very young age.  But it appears that a combination of immaturity, ego, excess, pampering, selfishness, petulance, assumed and too-great expectations, over analysis, lack of focus, self pity, creeping insecurity and self-doubt, and ultimately, complacency, prevented the manifestation of all that talent.  There have been moments of genius and met expectations, yes, but all too few and far between.  Sergio could’ve been one of the greats, but I think he’ll go down in history as… well, maybe he won’t go down in history at all.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I recently saw Chronicles of an Open Champion, which featured Jacklin. These films are FANTASTIC. I haven’t seen one I haven’t liked. You could almost say the same for Jacklin, underachiever, but during his time he went up against some juggernauts in the game and that likely made it more tough for him to win more than the two Majors he did. And you know what, the same could be said for poor Sergio, a victim of being born at the wrong time. Sergio had the displeasure of trying to beat two of the greatest modern players, probably of all time, in Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. They alone stole many titles (including Majors) that were up for grabs every year. For me, there are bigger underachievers than Sergio. Lee Westwood comes to mind, and even Monty, both players reaching #1 in the world, but no Major titles.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: It’s unfair to pick Serio as the supreme failure. He has an excellent career with most of his success in victories being on the European Tour. He won a major (two in my mind because he won the Players) and Wikipedia says he has a net worth of about $70M. If you want to declare who the real underachievers are, go to guys who won the US Am, gave the ‘big’ speech about playing golf with the ‘big boys’ and then tried the tour but were unsuccessful. Guys like Casey Whittenberg, Ricky Barnes and Colt Knost, who openly said they were off to the big time. Sure, some of them made some money for all the bluster, but it ain’t easy.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I don’t disagree with Jacklin that Garcia has underachieved, but I think the former Ryder Cup captain’s predictive algorithm may be broken. Double-digit majors? Against Tiger Woods in his prime? No chance.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Most of us have been sentenced to achievements by parents, friends, coaches, that we didn’t quite fulfill. The pressure on El Nino to not only match Saint Seve but surpass him was incredible in his hometown and home country. That he was still playing Tour golf past his 20’s is a great achievement. That spotlight gave him 3rd degree burns.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): While Sergio’s ball striking may be best in class, other tools in his kit are clearly not, so maybe he’s achieving at an appropriate level for all his talents combined. For Jacklin to suggest Sergio should have overcome his personality is like saying Couples should have won more if he weren’t hobbled by a bad back or Hogan could have won more if he were a better putter. It’s often assumed that courage or grittiness can be summoned at will. Garcia isn’t Seve and for Jacklin to draw that comparison is unfair.

The Match: Champions for Charity was the highest rated cable golf telecast ever. Part of the success of the show was the banter amongst the players and the access the TV crew had to talk to them between shots. Do you think players should be mic’d up for regular PGA Tour events as well?

Deeks: It would be an interesting novelty, for about 30 minutes.  Then, I’m afraid it would backfire, as we find that most players have little to say that’s interesting or insightful or amusing; while some players will try to ham it up and it won’t work.  I’d leave well-enough alone, but I’d certainly try to do something to liven up the broadcasts.  More insight and critical commentary from the anchors would help.  I miss Johnny Miller.

Loughry: I don’t want mic’d up players. They’re not all entertaining, you know. The charity event we just saw had some bad golf played, except for Tiger, so it was the exchange by players and commentators that made it work. Some really good banter. Can I take a steady dose of that every week? I couldn’t. Plus, it was the atmosphere, it was a charity event, I can’t see this on regular Tour events, certainly not Majors. Its enough for me that the GOLF is the story. I don’t need all the other stuff. But in a made for TV event/exhibition, yeah, I’m good with it all.

Schurman: In 1972, I wrote to Commissioner Joe Dye who did actually answer, suggesting players should allow a pre-arranged interview with pre-determined questions, during the tournament. His reply was that the players were in a ‘work environment’ and shouldn’t have to subscribe to something like this. So, 50 years later, I still think it’s a good idea. BTW, NBA, MLB and NFL coaches are interviewed during the game so why not players? After all, aren’t they making $$$$$M every game to entertain the fans? I would bet everything I own that if Ali had been asked for an interview between rounds by Howard Cosell, he would have said yes.

Kaplan: It wouldn’t have the same effect because players are zoned in during competition. They’re generally not goofing off or chirping one another, and Mickelson isn’t going out of his way to simplify his short-game thought process for viewers at home on every shot. Plus, I don’t think the players would be too happy about the booth constantly chattering in their ears or asking them about what they were thinking after hitting bad shots. If anything, player microphones would just catch more F-bombs.

Quinn: Not for a moment. These guys have been working all their lives on being in the present, one shot at a time. To ask them to yak humourously (or humorously on US TV) and/or intelligibly while trying to make the cut, is preposterous. It ain’t hit and giggle when it’s your livelihood.

Mumford: I have no interest in hearing the players on the golf course. The networks would be better advised to spend their money upgrading the broadcast including changing the format and maybe the crew. If the Match 2 proved anything, it was that an unusual combination like Brian Anderson (TNT), Trevor Immelman, Charles Barkley and Justin Thomas could breathe fresh air into TV golf with some lively chatter, offbeat humour and lots of sidebar entertainment. It sure beat the usual snooze-fest we see on a weekly basis.

While we wait for live golf to resume again, the airwaves have been full of replays, interviews and documentaries. And lots of promos for upcoming programs too. Plenty of ideas have also been floated for future documentaries and series but maybe they missed something. Which golfer would you most like to see in an in-depth series of interviews?

Deeks: LEE TREVINO is one of the most interesting characters in golf history, and I don’t just mean as a funnyman. His whole life story is fascinating, and we’ve never really been let into the early years.  He was one of the most feared, most successful, and most innovative players of all time.  His personality is equally fascinating: highly intelligent, but very unpredictable.  My own experience with him was memorable: he could be hysterically funny and spontaneous, very charming and cooperative, and in an instant, mean and ornery.  He’s always lived in the shadow of Palmer, Nicklaus, and Watson, but he’s the most interesting of the bunch, and maybe the best “pure” golfer of all.

Loughry: AJ Kim. Honestly, I want to know where this guy is, what he’s doing and what happened. I want the inside story. He had a ton of promise, choked up grip and all, was flashy, and edgy. He was the new next cool before the new next cool. Fowler before Fowler…. I know I’m not the only one that would like to see a recap of his too short career and where he is now. I heard something about a $10M insurance policy for his injury, and if he teed it up in a PGA Tour event again, he’d have to give it back. Where in the world is AJ Kim?

Schurman: I’d love to see, Sergio play soccer vs Rory, Phil vs Kuchar vs Peter Hanson in ping pong, Kuchar vs Els in tennis, Jack vs Faldo vs Norman in fishing,  Feherty play pool vs Poulter (too bad it couldn’t have been; Arnie apparently he could beat Jackie Gleason, who was incredible) and Darren Clarke vs any other golfer in beer. Oh yeah, interviews with Geoff Ogilvy, Sam Snead, Tommy Bolt or Walter Hagen. A few months ago, I suggested in this blog having a series of round-table discussions with a foursome of players both old and new. It’s a can’t miss series. Imagine Norman, Watson, Faldo and Els. Jack, Lee, Gary and Floyd.

Kaplan: A 10-part Tiger Woods documentary is the obvious answer here, but I think there are two great stories in the making that would be excellent documentaries a decade from now and I’ve actually taken the liberty of naming them: (1) The Curious Case of Patrick Reed and (2) Patrick Cantlay: Tragedy to Triumph

Quinn: The most articulate and thoughtful guy out there now, in this opinion, is Rory. But, having met him, the guy who has a more interesting story to tell is Justin Rose. From that historic Open shot, to serial missed cuts, to the pinnacle of the game and the game’s rewards, family man to game’s ambassador, it would take a Ken Burns series to tell his story.

Mumford: Phil McGleno aka Mac O’Grady tried to qualify for the PGA Tour 17 times before he made it. He played equally well left-handed and right-handed and after his playing career, he became a top teacher and swing guru. O’Grady is eccentric and brash, and there probably aren’t too many people in the golf industry that he hasn’t pissed off at one time or another. He’d be a fascinating subject.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

One thought on “Is Sergio Garcia the biggest underachiever in golf?

  1. How many Euro PGA Players have won the Masters and the Players and have the best record in the Hyper Cup.

    Westwood or Monty are the underachievers.

    Hector told me so.

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