Sergio Garcia ruling in heated incident is a mistake, PGA Tour says

Sergio Garcia on Thursday during his rules incident at the Wells Fargo Championship.

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Sergio Garcia was right. A referee was wrong. 

But Garcia’s score still stands. 

In a rules clarification Thursday night following a heated incident with Garcia during first-round play at the Wells Fargo Championship, the PGA Tour said that a ruling by one of its officials was an “inadvertent error.” In question was when the referee should have started his 3-minute search clock after Garcia hooked his tee shot left and into the red-marked penalty area on the 10th hole at TPC Potomac. 

sergio garcia
‘Absolute bulls–t’: Sergio Garcia berates official during controversial ruling
By: Sean Zak

Originally, the official apparently began his timer shortly after Garcia started to make his way across a stream that separates the 10th fairway from where his ball could have been, and when Garcia found his tee shot, the referee told the player that it had taken him 4 minutes, 1 minute longer than allowed under rule 18.2. However, following a video review after the round, the Tour said that Garcia should not have been docked to cross the water — and that he had found his ball in time. 

But Garcia’s score won’t change, according to the Tour, citing the Rules of Golf. During the original sequence, Garcia eventually took his penalty drop, hit short of the green, hit on and one-putted for a par five. 

The initial ruling was not without frustration. As Garcia made his way back to the fairway, he started to ridicule the ruling. “You want me to swim through the river? I wasn’t looking for the ball there. I was looking for the ball once I got over to this side. Does that make sense? I knew it was on this side of the river.”

The rules official clarified his ruling, and Garcia, swatting flies away from his face, said, “So, you’re saying it took too long?” Then he turned away and offered these words: “I can’t wait to leave this Tour.” 

“I can’t wait to get out of here, my friend,” Garcia continued as he grabbed his ball and trudged back to play his shot. “Just a couple more weeks and I won’t have to deal with you anymore.” 

Finally, Garcia shoved his clubs into his staff bag and shouted across the fairway, “I’m going to play slow now, OK?” He hit his layup shot and then proceeded to berate the official. “That is bulls—t. That is absolute bulls—t. I mean, I’m a minute and a half over [time] and you don’t tell me?”

According to Golf Channel, Garcia refused to talk to reporters afterward. The Tour release said “Garcia was informed of the developments following his round.”

Below is the Tour’s complete release:

“Official statement from the PGA Tour 

“Clarification regarding Sergio Garcia ruling, following full review of video by Steve Rintoul 

“May 5, 2022 — Wells Fargo Championship 

“On the 10th hole of Thursday’s first round of the Wells Fargo Championship, Sergio Garcia drove his ball left into a red penalty area. As Garcia entered the penalty area, a referee located on the 10th hole started a search time clock, as it appeared a search for the golf ball had begun. Unbeknownst to the referee, the players in the group were told by a TV spotter that the ball was on the far side of the creek, and at that point, Garcia spent a considerable amount of time trying to access the other side of the creek. This was not in clear view of the referee due to other players in the group playing, so the time clock was still running on the search, when it should have been paused. When the ball was found by Garcia, the referee’s three-minute search time had expired, and Garcia was informed the ball was treated as lost. Garcia operated under Rule 17.1d (2) using back-on-the-line relief from a red penalty area. Garcia made 5 (par) on the hole. 

“Subsequently, the Rules Committee reviewed video from the situation after the ruling and discovered the inadvertent error by the referee who was not aware the player was not searching for the ball on the other side of the creek. To clarify, the time spent by Garcia trying to access the other side of the creek should have delayed the start of the search time clock, and the ball would have still been “in play” if not for that error. Garcia was informed of the developments following his round. Under the Rules of Golf, Garcia’s score does not change despite this clarification.” 

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.