Real Madrid star Bale's passion for golf 'healthy,' says golfer Sergio Garcia

Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia has come out in defence of Real Madrid's Gareth Bale, who has come under scrutiny in Spain over his passion for the sport.

Nicknamed "The Golfer" by his club teammates, the media in Spain have criticised the Wales international for thinking too much about golf and not about playing for the club.

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However, Bale said last week that he found some of the headlines such as AS' "triple bogey" on Nov. 5 -- which the winger claims he's never had -- "hilarious."

Asked about Bale and the controversy surrounding golf, Garcia told Gol TV: "To me, the fact that he likes golf, well it is much better then that he play 18 holes rather than go out drinking until 4 a.m.

"It is a healthy sport and I love that he likes to play it and we are friends. so, you know, good for him."

Garcia, the 2017 Masters winner, and Bale coincided last month in the Spanish Open in Madrid.

"We are friends," Garcia said. "I've played a few times with him and the truth is that he likes it a lot. He does it very well. He is very good."

Bale, who came close to leaving Madrid this summer, was rumoured in July to have gone golfing in Spain while Real Madrid were playing their Audi Cup semifinal against Tottenham at the Allianz Arena.

Former Real Madrid player Predrag Mijatovic recently said Bale's priorities were "Wales, then golf and after that, Real Madrid."

Bale, who had been sidelined with a calf injury since Oct. 13, started in his country's last two qualifiers, including Saturday's 2-0 win at Azerbaijan.