Sergio Garcia has expressed his “sadness” at the breakdown of his close relationship with Rory McIlroy, saying that the Northern Irishman “lacked maturity” when abruptly ending their friendship over the LIV Golf breakaway.
McIlroy disclosed in a recent interview that he had removed Garcia’s number from his phone after the Spaniard had sent a text last year “basically telling me to shut up about LIV, blah, blah, blah”. McIlroy added: “I was pretty offended and sent him back a couple of daggers and that was it.”
When asked in Dubai three weeks ago if he thought it might be a good idea to make up with Garcia, McIlroy replied with a curt, “No”.
The pair were partners in the Ryder Cup and would often play practice rounds together. Their ties extended off the course, too. They attended each other’s weddings, with McIlroy acting as a groomsman for Garcia in 2017. It is fair to say that of all the relationships affected by the Saudi-funded breakaway circuit, their overnight split has been the most high-profile.
“I think it is very sad,” Garcia told Telegraph Sport here at the Mayakoba resort on Thursday. “I think that we’ve done so many things together and had so many experiences that for him to throw that away just because I decided to go to a different tour, well, it doesn’t seem very mature; lacking maturity, really.
“But Rory’s got his own life and he makes his own choices, the same way that I make mine. I respect his choices, but it seems like he doesn’t respect the ones I make. So a one-way street.”
Garcia insisted that he would he happy to reunite and discuss the issue. “Sure, I don’t have a problem with him. He’s the one that has a problem,” he said. “So if he wants to reconcile, then I’m willing to talk, but I’m not sure he’ll put himself down to that level.”
The 43-year-old still harbours hope, as the leading points-scorer in the history of the Ryder Cup, of receiving a wild card for Luke Donald’s team in September, a scenario world No 1 Jon Rahm has backed. But Garcia recognises that the “bad blood” existing between him and McIlroy makes it far from likely.
“Besides, I wouldn’t want to harm the atmosphere in the team room,” Garcia said. “I love that event too much for that.” He plays in Friday’s first round of LIV Mayakoba, the $25 million (£21 million) 54-hole tournament that kicks off a season featuring 14 events.
Garcia is the captain of the Fireballs, a four-man team also comprising fellow Spaniard Eugenio Chacarra and Mexicans Carlos Ortiz and Abraham Ancer – and despite the $4 million first prize on offer to the winner of the individual competition at the El Camaleon layout on Sunday, he claimed to be more excited by the prospect of his team.
“I love team play, I always have, even before I had the pleasure of playing the Ryder Cup,” the Real Madrid fan said. “I’ve always loved soccer, and that’s the ultimate team sport. Being able to kind of replicate a lot of the feelings that you get in a Ryder Cup every week with three guys that you’re friends with, that you care about, and that you spend a lot of time with … well, it’s amazing. For me it’s a dream come true and one of the main reasons I’m here.”
Another factor for Garcia was the input the players have at LIV. “We had so much criticism when we started off last June that it unified us all together and that included with the bosses, “he said. “You can suggest things, ideas, and although they are not always followed up and acted upon, you are listened to. That didn’t happen on the PGA Tour. There are only two, maybe three players who the bosses listen to on that Tour.”
Garcia was referring to Tiger Woods and McIlroy in a dig that will hardly help heal the division with his former friend. For now, he is not bothered. “I’m fine and my focus is on this new campaign,” he said. “I have a great team. They’re great players and beautiful people. We’re really excited.”
The shotgun format will begin at 1.15pm local time (6.15pm), with the UK audience able to watch the action on the official LIV website and the LIV+ app. However, unlike last year, it will not be streamed on YouTube, due to the deal with United States network The CW.
A LIV spokesperson said it was still hopeful of securing a “linear” platform in the UK in the near future.