Elephants and New Yorkers: they never forget. The last time Sergio Garcia was at Bethpage, for the 2002 US Open, he was in the middle of his re-gripping yips and the tough New York crowd nicknamed him Waggle Boy. By the time he reached the 16th green on Friday back then, the crowd was counting aloud his waggles.
“One..two…three.” Garcia’s patience ran out, his sense of humour failed, and he snapped, raising the universally recognised single finger salute at them.
Well, Garcia revisited the scene of his bust-up in the delayed first round this year and the horror of the memories must have come flooding back standing on the 16th tee. He waggled three times (tiny, almost unnoticed waggles) with his driver before belting his ball down the middle of the fairway, out driving his playing partners, Adam Scott and Camilo Villegas. A fan yelled out. “Hey Sergio, we don’t count your waggles anymore.” Everyone
laughed. Garcia, wisely, kept his head down.
New Yorkers never forget but maybe they have finally softened to the Spaniard “I love you Sergio; I love winding you up,” shouted another – loud enough to get guffaws from his buddies but quiet enough for Garcia not to hear it. Poor Garcia had to walk the gauntlet of the 16th fairway, which is flanked by hospitality (hostility) tents all the way to the green spilling over with yahoos
who are rather too fond of the sound of their own voices.
They do like a rousing yell in New York – just for the hell of it. And, let’s just say that refreshment had been taken throughout the day and, judging by the volume of the whoops and hollers, it probably wasn’t lemonade or iced tea that they had been sipping.
If Garcia was going to get it in the neck, this was the place and the time. But nothing. Nada, as they say in Spain. Zip, as they say in New York. “Go Sergio, Baby!” came a scream from the galleries. And, this year, it wasn’t meant to be Cry Baby.
Hold the back page: the golfer formerly known as Waggle Boy is actually getting support from the famously Mickey-taking New York sports fans. There wasn’t a single taunt about his recent break up with girlfriend, Morgan-Leigh (daughter of Greg) Norman.
No mention of his whinging after losing the 2007 Open play-off to Padraig Harrington. “Welcome back, Sergio,” came a shout from the back of the 17th green as Garcia rolled in his third single putt in a row on his way to posting an even par score for his delayed first round.
New York is rooting for Sergio. It’s official. As Sinatra said of New York, New York: “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere…”