A RACE row last night threatened to overshadow the European Tour’s flagship event after world No1 Tiger Woods hit back at Ryder Cup star Sergio Garcia for joking that he would serve the American fried chicken.
Garcia made the comment on stage at an awards ceremony on Tuesday night and quickly issued an apology for the “silly remark”, which he followed up with a contrite press conference yesterday afternoon.
By then Woods had already responded with distaste to Garcia’s initial apology, as the feud between two of golf’s best known personalities dominated the eve of the BMW PGA Championship, which starts today at Wentworth.
“The comment that was made wasn’t silly,” Woods wrote on Twitter. “It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate.”
Woods, who clashed with Garcia on the course at The Players Championship earlier this month, appeared to accept the Spaniard’s apology and attempt to draw a line under the row.
“I’m confident that there is real regret that the remark was made,” he added. “The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it’s long past time to move on and talk about golf.”
Garcia, 33, was asked at the European Tour’s awards dinner whether he would invite Woods for dinner during next month’s US Open. “We will have him round every night,” he said. “We will serve fried chicken.”
The remarks echo those of former pro Fuzzy Zoeller, who notoriously suggested Woods might serve “fried chicken and collard greens” at the traditional Champions Dinner following his first Masters win in 1997.
Fried chicken is stereotypically associated with black Americans, particularly from the Deep South, but Garcia insisted he had not been racist.
“It was not meant that way,” he said. “I was caught off-guard by what seemed to be a fun question and tried to give a funny answer that came out totally wrong.
“Don’t get me wrong, I understand my answer was totally stupid and out of place. Finally and most importantly I want to apologise to Tiger and anyone that I could have offended. I feel sick about it and truly, truly sorry. Hopefully we can settle things down and move on.”
Woods is not taking part in the PGA Championship but Garcia is among 11 of the Ryder Cup team that miraculously defeated America last year, as well as captain Jose Maria Olazabal, set to play.
KEY TEE TIMES
8.15am: Kaymer, Lynn, Rose
8.25am: Lawrie, McDowell, McIlroy
12.50pm: Donald, Garcia, F-Castano
1.00pm: F Molinari, Westwood, Els
1.15pm: Bjorn, Casey, Uihlein