Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia may be some way short of the late great Seve Ballesteros, but he definitely shares something with his illustrious compatriot — the ability to generate the sublime from the ridiculous.
The Spaniard found himself in trouble on the 10th hole of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Florida, on Sunday, after his wayward tee shot became lodged 15 feet up an oak tree to the right of the fairway. Before a bemused crowd, the 33-year-old lithely climbed the branches and discovered that the ball was in a playable position.
After investigating several stances, including a possible between the legs effort, Garcia decided to chip out backward with one hand to rapturous applause. It was a shot that Ballesteros, a five-time Major winner famed for his elaborate recovery strokes, would have surely been proud.
“I looked over and Sergio is up in the air, and I’m trying to figure out what in the hell he’s going to do,” Garcia’s playing partner William McGirt told ESPN. “He called for a club. He’s hugging the tree. And the ball comes flying out. Are you kidding me?”
Unfortunately for Garcia, it was no joke. Things quickly turned sour when it emerged that he had injured his shoulder while maneuvering up between the tree’s limbs. The pain was so great that Garcia only managed to hit the ball 30 yards for his next shot, and so he took advantage of a break in play for severe thunderstorms to retire early.
“It wasn’t an easy decision. I wanted to keep playing and finish the round and the tournament even though it was not my best day, but soreness grew and [I] decided to pull back to avoid further injuries,” Garcia told his official website. The world number 17 now faces a fight to return to full fitness in time for the U.S. Masters in April.