COMMENT:

Golf barely made it out of January when it was hit with what must feel like a two-shot penalty.

Odds are the negative attention on the new set of modern rules will have subsided before those four glorious days in April during the Masters — unless, of course, the next man in a green jacket makes his final putt with the flagstick in the cup.

As for Sergio Garcia?

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More bad luck. His latest and most serious tantrum — damaging greens out of frustration at the Saudi International — comes in a year when the PGA Championship is held at Bethpage Black, where ruthless galleries can make even the fans at the Phoenix Open blush.

Any discussion, confusion and consternation over the new rules — particularly caddies standing behind their players — will pass soon enough. Expect some clarification this week on when and where a caddie can stand, no matter the part of the golf course.

Garcia won't get off so easily.

The Spaniard took out his anger on a bunker during the second round in Saudi Arabia.

That's nothing new for Garcia, but video of it got even more attention because it was all anyone had to show in lieu of the real crime. The next morning, without any camera crews following his group, Garcia went after the greens. That led the European Tour to disqualify him for "serious misconduct" covered in Rule 1.2.

Sergio Garcia took out his anger on a bunker during the second round in Saudi Arabia. Photo / AP
Sergio Garcia took out his anger on a bunker during the second round in Saudi Arabia. Photo / AP

According to the digital newsletter "Morning Read", players behind Garcia noticed "clearly intentional" damage on at least two greens that would affect play for the rest of the groups.

Garcia apologised in a European Tour statement announcing his disqualification. He later said: "Sometimes you lose your head and later you realise what you have done."

European Tour chief Keith Pelley did not sound as though Garcia would face more punishment when he told The Scotsman: "The incident is over. We have dealt with it. Sergio has apologised and we move on."

Suspending him seems appropriate. Then again, Garcia figures to be punished even more by playing, for he will be reminded of his actions the rest of the year, maybe the rest of his career, depending on the gallery.

In some corners, an equal volume of outrage was reserved for the first big flap over the new rules.

Li Haotong of China was docked two shots in Dubai when his caddie was walking away as Li was stepping into his final putt on the last hole. It didn't look like the caddie was lining him up, and the penalty appeared harsh because it took him from a tie for third to a tie for 12th.

Golf can be cruel, and Rickie Fowler could attest to that watching his ball roll into the water in Phoenix.

In Li's case, the rule was applied according to the book.

Five days later at the Phoenix Open, Denny McCarthy was penalised two shots when his caddie was standing behind him as McCarthy was making casual swings. The caddie moved away. McCarthy backed off, lined himself up and hit the shot. By the strict wording of the rule, he was penalised.