Sergio Garcia sorry for ‘racist’ Tiger Woods jibe
The remark about “fried chicken”, which is stereotypically associated with black people in the American deep south, was made during a reunion of all 12 members of Europe’s winning team at last year’s Ryder Cup in Chicago at a glittering European Tour players’ dinner at a hotel on the outskirts of London on Tuesday night.
Asked if he would be inviting Woods – the pair have been involved in a war of words over the past fortnight – to dinner at next month’s US Open, the Spaniard replied: “Yes, every night – and we’ll make sure we have fried chicken.”
It was a similar remark to the one made by American Fuzzy Zoeller in 1997 after Woods had won the Masters, entitling him to choose the champions’
dinner menu for the following year at Augusta National. “You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year,” said Zoeller. “Got it? Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”
Zoeller, who claimed he’d been misconstrued, later apologised and Garcia did likewise yesterday, having already issued an apology in the early hours of yesterday morning, on the eve of the European Tour’s flagship event after his remark had been condemned by Woods in a
response on Twitter.
“The comment that was made wasn’t silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate,” wrote the world No 1. “The Players [where the pair fell out after Garcia claimed he’d been put off by a noise in the crowd instigated by playing partner Woods] ended nearly two weeks ago andit’s long past time to move on and talk about golf.
“I’m confident that there is real regret that the remark was made.”
Admitting that was the case, Garcia revealed he had tried to make a personal apology to Woods yesterday through his agent before sheepishly appearing at a hastily arranged press conference at the end of his pro-am round to say “sorry” over and over again.
“Most importantly I want to apologise to Tiger, I feel sick about it and I’m truly sorry,” said the 33-year-old, who burst on to the golfing scene when he won the Amateur Championship at Muirfield 15 years ago and will be heading back there in July to try to add the Open Championship to his CV.
In the week he is making his first appearance in the £4 million event at Wentworth for the first time since 2000, Garcia added: “I obviously was caught off guard by the question but I understand my answer was totally out of place and I can’t say sorry enough about that.
“Also I’d like to say sorry to the European Tour and my Ryder team-mates for taking the shine away from what was a wonderful awards dinner and most importantly I want to apologise to Tiger.
“I don’t have his phone number but I’ve called his manager. He didn’t pick up but I left a message saying I would love to talk as soon as possible telling him how sorry I am and say it was a bad comment.”
Asked if he had considered withdrawing from this week’s Wentworth event, Garcia said: “If you asked me this morning I might have but I feel like the tournament deserves to have me, I want to go out there and give everything I have and make sure the people enjoy watching me play.
“As soon as I left the dinner I had a sick feeling in my body. I didn’t sleep at all last night. I felt like my heart was coming out of my body.
“It has been difficult to hit a shot without thinking about it. The only thing I can do is say sorry.”
Garcia’s appearance at the press conference followed a meeting with George O’Grady, the European Tour chief executive, and Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour commissioner, both of whom were at the dinner at a Heathrow hotel, to discuss his remark.
The European Tour later issued a statement confirming that no disciplinary action had been taken against the Spaniard.
It read: “Sergio expressed very deep and sincere regret for his unguarded and, in his own words, ‘stupid’ remark and we are also aware of his statement of apology issued at 12.25am this morning.
“Following our meeting, we have accepted his full apology and we consider the matter closed.
“We are now looking forward to our flagship event, starting tomorrow morning.”
Asked about the spat yesterday, world No 2 Rory McIlroy, a good friend of both Woods
and Garcia, said: “It was an off-the-cuff comment and it shouldn’t have been said and I think Sergio realised that as soon as he said it.”
Luke Donald added: “We all know Sergio, he says his mind and sometimes he doesn’t have that filter unfortunately. It was an unfortunate incident. He’s full of regret. He wished he hadn’t said it.
“I don’t think he even meant to say it in a way.
“It just came out and straight away it was more of I guess an undertone of trying to be stereotypical rather than have those undertones of racism.”