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SERGIO FOCUSED ON DC, US OPEN, VALDERRAMA – BUT NOT RYDER CUP

News
Written by
Mike McAllister
May 25 2023
- 6 min
Garcia DC presser Bynder

POTOMAC FALLS, Va. – Sergio Garcia was in his car headed to Dallas on Sunday afternoon when he decided to watch the final six holes of the PGA Championship on his phone.

Don’t worry, he wasn’t driving.

But it was strange that Garcia was a spectator and not a participant at a major championship. While fellow LIV Golf member Brooks Koepka was winning the fifth major of his career at Oak Hill in upstate New York, Garcia was halfway across the country in Texas, ineligible to play in a major for the first time this century.

A day later, the Fireballs GC captain made sure he didn’t miss the next major, as he put together consecutive rounds of 66 to claim one of the eight spots in sectional qualifying for the upcoming U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club. A birdie on his last hole allowed him to avoid a 5-for-2 playoff.

“It’s never easy to go into a U.S. Open qualifier,” Garcia said Thursday on the eve of this week’s LIV Golf DC. “I’ve only had to play two, counting this one, but been fortunate to make it through both times.”

Thanks to his 2017 Masters victory, Garcia never has to worry about qualifying for Augusta National. But starts in the other three majors are not guaranteed, largely because LIV Golf tournaments do not receive the kind of world ranking points utilized for some of the exemption categories.

That’s why Garcia missed out on Oak Hill. The only other major he’s missed since the 1999 U.S. Open was the 2020 Masters when he withdrew due to COVID. That snapped a streak of 84 consecutive majors played. He played the next 11 majors until last week.

“I’m not stupid; I know at some point I’ll start playing less and less majors,” Garcia said. “That was going to happen at some point.

“Obviously I would have loved to be there, but because of my ranking … there’s no other way to qualify for the PGA unless you get an invitation. I didn’t get that.”

Instead, he spent time with his family in their home in Austin and practiced for Monday’s sectional. It also allowed him to enjoy watching Koepka become the first player to win a major as a LIV Golf member.

“I think it shows that we are all putting in a lot of work here, that no one gives you anything for free – regardless of some of the things they said when we all decided to come and join and support LIV,” Garcia said.

While the prospects of winning a second career major may be limited by opportunities, at least they remain a possibility. The same can’t be said for Garcia’s Ryder Cup future. He’s been a member of every European team since 1999 and is the all-time points leader and all-time match winner.

But in a recent conversation with European Ryder Cup Captain Luke Donald – the fill-in for Henrik Stenson, who was removed from the position after joining LIV Golf last summer – Garcia was told point-blank that he would not be considered for a spot. As a result, he resigned from the DP World Tour in early May.

“I talked to him two or three weeks ago,” Garcia said. “Obviously I had to make some decisions when it comes down to the DP World Tour, and I wanted to see where I stood in regards to the Ryder Cup.

“Luke obviously is a good friend … I wanted him to be sincere and tell me the truth, and he pretty much told me that I had no chance. Obviously, that made my decision a little bit easier.

“It was sad because I feel like not only because of my history but the way I’ve been playing” – Garcia finished runner-up to Talor Gooch last month at LIV Golf Singapore after forcing a playoff – “that I probably could have a chance, but it didn’t sound like it, so that’s what it is.”

Garcia said he knew the possibility for exclusion existed when he joined LIV but was hoping that European Ryder Cup officials would keep an open mind. He looked forward to renewing his partnership with fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm.

Two years ago at Whistling Straits, the duo was one of Europe’s few bright spots in a losing effort, winning all three of their matches against American partners that included Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. Garcia and Rahm were the only two Europeans with winning records that week.

“At the end of the day, I’m still European, I’m Spanish and I want the European team to win and do the best they can there and have the best chance at winning the Ryder Cup,” Garcia said. “I was excited about the possibility of playing with Jon again, and I know that Jon was also excited about that possibility too.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen – at least for now.”

Instead, he’ll turn his attention to this week’s event in D.C., then the U.S. Open – his best result is a T3 in 2005, although he did post a top 20 finish two years ago when the tournament was last played in Southern California at Torrey Pines.

After that, LIV Golf’s next tournament will be in his home country at his favorite course, Valderrama.

While Garcia is excited to play a course he knows so well – and also has enjoyed lots of success, with victories in three consecutive starts – he’s equally excited to have LIV Golf’s stable of world-class players and major champions competing in front of Spanish golf fans for the first time.

“I love that Valderrama is finally going to get the chance of having the kind of field that it deserves,” Garcia said. “For too many years, unfortunately, the DP World Tour has been promising me and other Spanish players that have been involved in the tournament playing there and the golf course itself, the club, that the field was going to get better, that more great players were going to come and play – and it never happened.

“I think that Valderrama deserves a lot more than that.

“It’s just 48 players, but it’s going to be the best field that they’ve ever had. That makes me very proud because it’s in my country, it’s on my favorite golf course and I can’t wait for everyone to go there, enjoy it, play it, and hopefully have a great time.”

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