Sergio Garcia during the PRO/AM tournament at the Wentworth
Club, Surrey, England, Wednesday May 22, 2013. Tiger Woods
says the "fried chicken" comment from Sergio
Garcia was hurtful and inappropriate. Two weeks after they
verbally sparred at The Players Championship, Woods say it's
time to move on. Garcia was at a European Tour awards dinner
Tuesday night when he was jokingly asked if he would have
Woods over for dinner during the U.S. Open. The Spaniard
replied, "We'll have him round every night. We will
serve fried chicken."
apologized to Tiger Woods for saying he would serve fried chicken
if they were to have dinner at the U.S. Open, an ugly addition to
nearly two weeks of verbal sparring.
What had been a
celebration of European golf at an awards dinner south of London
shifted suddenly to a racially sensitive moment involving Woods,
the No. 1 golfer in the world and the only player of
African-American heritage on the PGA Tour.
Garcia said he
meant to give a funny answer to a playful question, and it turned
out to be "totally stupid and out of place."
"I feel sick
about it and I feel truly, truly sorry," he said Wednesday
from the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, site of the European
Tour's flagship event.
The two golfers
have exchanged barbs the last 11 days, dating to the third round
of The Players Championship when Garcia implied that Woods
purposely stirred up the gallery as the Spaniard was playing a
shot. Woods said it was not surprising that Garcia was
Garcia and his
Ryder Cup teammates were at a dinner Tuesday night when the emcee,
Golf Channel's Steve Sands, jokingly asked Garcia if he would have
Woods over for dinner during the U.S. Open.
him round every night," Garcia replied. "We will serve
The remark was
reminiscent of Fuzzy Zoeller's similar comment about Woods during
his record-setting victory in the 1997 Masters, where Woods became
the first player of black heritage to win a major.
Garcia issued a
statement through the European Tour after the dinner that did not
mention Woods by name. He apologized "for any offense that
may have been caused" by answering the question with a
this photo made May 12, 2013, Sergio Garcia, of Spain, left,
shakes hands with Tiger Woods at the end of the third round
of The Players championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass
in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Garcia apologized to Woods on
Wednesday, May 22, 3013, for saying he would have
"fried chicken" at dinner with his rival, a
comment that Woods described as hurtful and inappropriate.
"But in no
way was the comment meant in a racist manner," the statement
Wednesday morning with a series of tweets that said: "The
comment that was made wasn't silly. It was wrong, hurtful and
clearly inappropriate. I'm confident that there is real regret the
remark was made. The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it's
long past time to move on and talk about golf."
That was one
thing upon which both players finally agreed.
Garcia held an
impromptu news conference at Wentworth to elaborate on his
"I want to
also apologize to my Ryder Cup teammates who were there last night
for taking the shine away from a wonderful event, and finally and
foremost, I want to apologize to Tiger and to anyone I could have
offended," he said. "I felt very sick about it and feel
really bad, and just hope to settle things down and move on."
Garcia said he
left a voicemail for Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent at Excel Sports,
because he doesn't have a phone number for Woods. Steinberg did
not immediately respond to an email to confirm he received the
call, or if Woods planned to call Garcia.
love to talk to them as soon as possible and make sure that
everything is OK, tell them how sorry I am and obviously it was a
bad comment that shouldn't have been said," Garcia said.
fried chicken and watermelon in particular, have been used in
dehumanizing caricatures of blacks from as early as the beginning
America's segregation era in the 19th century. The imagery has
become less common in the decades since integration.
But it surfaced
when Woods was emerging as golf's biggest star. He was on his way
to a record score and a 12-shot win at Augusta National in '97
when Zoeller, who grew up in southern Indiana, spoke of his
performance that week.
"So you know
what you guys do when he gets in there? Pat him on the back, say
congratulations, enjoy it, and tell him not to serve fried chicken
next year. Got it?" Zoeller said. And then he added as he
walked away, "Or collard greens or whatever the hell they
followed Zoeller, a popular two-time major champion, for the rest
of his career and cost him major endorsements.
sponsor is TaylorMade-adidas, which issued a statement Wednesday
that his comment "was offensive and in no way aligns with
TaylorMade-adidas Golf's values and corporate culture.
spoken with Sergio directly and he clearly has regret for his
statement and we believe he is sincere," the statement said.
"We discussed with Sergio that his comments are clearly out
of bounds and we are continuing to review the matter."
Garcia said he
was unaware of Zoeller's comments because he was only 17 at the
time. Even so, it was a peculiar choice of words for a player who
has lived in Spain his entire life, though the 33-year-old has
been a PGA Tour member since he was 20.
Even as the game
has grown in international popularity, and Woods has gone from
something of a curiosity as an African-American star to one of the
best players of all time, he has occasionally endured racially
At an awards
night for caddies in Shanghai in November 2011, his former caddie
received an award for best TV interview. Steve Williams, who had
been fired by Woods in the summer of 2011, was on the bag for Adam
Scott when he won at Firestone. Williams said in a CBS interview
that it was "the best win of my life."
When he received
the mock award, Williams said of the interview, "It was my
aim to shove it right up that black a------."
He apologized to
Woods the next week at the Australian Open.
Five years ago,
Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman and analyst Nick Faldo were
discussing possible challengers to Woods when Faldo suggested the
players gang up on him.
in a back alley," Tilghman replied.
Woods are friends, and she apologized to him immediately. Woods
came to her defense, saying there was no ill intent. Tilghman was
suspended for two weeks.
Commissioner Tim Finchem and European Tour chief executive George
O'Grady were at the awards dinner Tuesday night. O'Grady said in a
statement that he and Finchem spoke to Garcia after his pro-am
round at Wentworth.
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," O'Grady said. "Following our
meeting, we have accepted his full apology and we consider the
spokesman Ty Votaw said the tour would not be commenting on the
public feud between two marquee players.
Their dispute has
been yet another difficult moment in a PGA Tour season filled with
them, from Vijay Singh suing the tour after he was cleared of an
anti-doping violation to the tour's opposition to a new rule that
outlaws the putting stroke used by four of the last six major
involving Woods always draws attention, though it's rare to have
two high-profile players exchange barbs through the media.
believe it's lasted this long," Matt Kuchar said from the
Colonial. "I think everybody's shaking their heads. It's over
two weeks ago now, and it just seems to be drawing out too far,
and unfortunately people just won't let it go. It'd be nice for it
to go away.
"I think the
game is in great shape," he said. "We don't need what's
going on between Tiger and Sergio. It's kind of too bad it's
dragged out this far."
Tim Herron added,
"The issue's not even golf. It's about their character and
whatever. Get over it, we're out of junior high and high school.
Just go play golf."
Garcia is not
expected to run into Woods until the U.S. Open at Merion outside
Philadelphia, where the Spaniard is not sure what kind of
reception he will receive — from Woods, the other players and
especially the gallery. The New York gallery at Bethpage Black in
2002 heckled him for constantly gripping his club, and at one
point Garcia showed them his middle finger. The gallery at Merion,
a private club, will be half of what it was at the public Bethpage
track on Long Island.
Garcia said he
hoped this might lead to an improved relationship with Woods.
"Like I said
before, I am terribly sorry for what happened and I am sure we can
talk soon and I can apologize to him face-to-face, and move
forward and forget about the whole thing," he said.