Saying he had difficulty sleeping and contemplated withdrawing from this week’s European Tour event, Sergio Garcia on Wednesday afternoon apologized for racially insensitive remarks directed at Tiger Woods at a tour function outside London the previous night, acknowledging his comments were “totally stupid and out of place.”
The two golfers have been engaged in a war of words going back two weeks to The Players Championship, and it turned ugly Tuesday night with Garcia’s admitted poor attempt at humor, which prompted a tweet from Woods: “The comment that was made wasn’t silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate.”
Garcia jokingly answered a question at a European Tour players dinner Tuesday night about getting together with Woods at the U.S. Open by saying, “We’ll have him ’round every night. We will serve fried chicken.”
“Fried chicken” references are associated with racial stereotypes of African-Americans.
Garcia had issued a statement late Tuesday night apologizing for the remarks, then met with the media on Wednesday after his pro-am round at Wentworth, site of this week’s European Tour flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship.
“I want to apologize to Tiger and anybody that I could have offended,” Garcia said. “I feel sick about it. I’m truly, truly sorry. And I hope we can kind of settle things down and hopefully move on.”
He had issued a statement Tuesday night.
“I apologize for any offense that may have been caused by my comment on stage during the European Tour Players’ Awards dinner,” Garcia said. “I answered a question that was clearly made towards me as a joke with a silly remark, but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner.”
Before Garcia’s news conference, Woods tweeted:
“I’m confident that there is real regret that the remark was made. “The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it’s long past time to move on and talk about golf.”
One of Garcia’s sponsors has also weighed in on the matter.
“Sergio Garcia’s recent comment was offensive and in no way aligns with TaylorMade-adidas Golf’s values and corporate culture,” the statement read. “We have spoken with Sergio directly and he clearly has regret for his statement and we believe he is sincere. We discussed with Sergio that his comments are clearly out of bounds and we are continuing to review the matter.”
Neither Garcia or Woods had stepped up to end the controversy, which began with the simple act of Woods pulling a club from his bag beside the second fairway at the TPC Sawgrass on May 11. Woods had hit an errant shot and was surrounded by spectators, who then cheered — which distracted Garcia, who was addressing his ball from the fairway at the time, and then hit an errant shot.
Garcia complained about Woods’ actions afterward, and the two have gone back and forth ever since, with marshals getting involved with what was said and not said on the hole.
Earlier this week, Woods was asked at the AT&T National media day whether he planned to reach out to Garcia to clear the air. His reply: “No.”
On Tuesday, Garcia said: “I mean, you can’t like everybody. I think that there’s people that you connect with and there’s people that you don’t. You know, it’s pretty much as simple as that. I think that he doesn’t need me in his life, I don’t need him in mine, and let’s move on and keep doing what we’re doing.”
But at the players function on Tuesday night, Garcia was jokingly asked whether he’d be inviting Woods to dinner at the U.S. Open. Garcia said he was caught off guard and tried to be funny.
“It wasn’t meant that way,” Garcia said. “I was caught off guard. What seemed to be a funny question, and I tried to give a funny answer. It came out totally wrong. I want to make sure everybody knows I’m very, very sorry. I can’t apologize enough times.
“As soon as I left the dinner, I started getting a sick feeling in my body. I didn’t really sleep at all. I felt like my heart was going to come out of my body. I’ve had this sick feeling all day. Difficult to hit a shot all day.”
Garcia said he reached out to Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, who missed the call but acknowledged receiving it. “I would love to talk to him [Woods] as soon as possible and make sure everything is OK,” Garcia said.
A similar comment got Fuzzy Zoeller in trouble after the 1997 Masters, when he quipped the fried chicken should be served at the following year’s champions dinner, which Woods would host as the defending champion.
Garcia said he was unaware of the uproar that ensued around Zoeller following those comments.
Both PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and European Tour CEO George O’Grady were at the Tuesday night function, and Garcia said he met with both executives Wednesday morning. Garcia apologized to both and said he had not been sanctioned by either tour.