ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Sergio Garcia made the cut in the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship after a 4-under 68 in Friday’s second round, but not before he had to clear his name after allegations that he pushed down a spike mark on the 18th green during his first round.
The Spaniard was forced into an early meeting with European Tour chief referee John Paramor before the second round to ensure he had not breached Rule 16-1a (“Touching Line of Putt”) in Round 1. TV footage showed Garcia tapping his line in front of his ball before his birdie putt on the 18th green at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
“Cheating is something I would definitely never do,” Garcia said. “I talked to John and told him, ‘I’m pretty sure that it was a pitch mark that I repaired.’ The confusion was that I repaired it, but Martin (Kaymer) was going to putt, so I backed away to let him putt and then what you can see in the video is him putting and I’m tapping the pitch mark down.”
Garcia and Paramor revisited the 18th green before the Spaniard teed off. Garcia showed Paramor the ball mark, and the European Tour’s chief rules man judged there was no violation.
However, the incident upset Garcia.
“It does feel quite bad to be related to the word ‘cheating’ when you have no proof and I’ve never ever cheated in my whole life,” he said. “I have given myself plenty of penalty strokes when nobody saw it and I did.
“It hurt a little bit. I think people calling (in alleged rules violations) without having any proof is wrong. If you can really tell that it’s wrong that somebody’s cheated, then that’s fine, but when you have no proof at all, it’s not. Being related to that word is the most disgusting thing that can happen to someone to me that has never, ever cheated. It was disappointing, but it was good to clear it up with John Paramor.”
Garcia stands at level-par 144 through 36 holes, nine strokes behind co-leaders Craig Lee of Scotland and Rafael Cabrera-Bello of Spain.