Sergio Garcia stepped off the Wentworth Club course on Thursday after posting an even-par 72 in the first round of the BMW PGA Championship and right back into the never-ending soap opera that has engulfed him and Tiger Woods for the past two weeks.
While Garcia termed “unfortunate” the racist slur that European Tour grand kleagle George O’Grady made in defense of the Spaniard’s ill-considered “fried chicken” joke at Woods’ expense, Mr. Finger-Lickin’-Good, himself, Fuzzy Zoeller, popped out of obscurity to opine about the whole ugly situation.
Zoeller, who lost endorsements and fans after infamously calling Woods in 1997 a “little boy” and telling him not to order fried chicken for the Masters champions dinner, said he had “paid his dues." The world would get over Garcia’s remark as well, he said, according to the AP.
Garcia has apologized twice for saying during a recent Euro Tour gala that he would feed Woods fried chicken if the two antagonists were to break bread together during the upcoming U.S. Open.
His tasteless jest was “totally stupid” and “wasn’t meant” to be racist, Garcia said Wednesday in a pre-tourney press conference. The eight-time PGA Tour winner offered his witticism after the mutual antipathy that had festered between him and Woods for years burst into nastiness at the recent Players Championship.
The two players have gone after each other verbally since the third round of The Players when Garcia said in a TV interview that Woods deliberately distracted him while he was hitting a shot. Woods responded that Garcia was a cry baby -- or words to that effect -- and the game was on.
Garcia’s ignorant attempt at humor during Tuesday night’s black-tie affair was as wide of the mark as the two balls he dumped into the water at No. 17 at Sawgrass in Sunday’s finale of the Players.
His comments stirred up images of odious stereotypes involving African Americans and fried chicken that were meant to demean and offend and are acceptable nowhere. He apologized the next day in a statement via the European Tour for his “silly remark” that “in no way was....meant in a racist manner.”
Woods made the next move, tweeting that “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."
Then came Garcia’s news conference at Wentworth, during which he said he had left a voice-mail message for Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg and hoped to speak face-to-face with his nemesis next month at Merion.
“Obviously it was a bad comment that shouldn't have been said," observed Garcia, whose words reminded golf watchers of what Zoeller mouthed about Woods, who won his first Masters in 1997.
''Mine was a joke that went bad,” Zoeller said at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where his liquor company, Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka, will sponsor the pole car for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 race. “What the hell, I paid my dues.”
Zoeller brushed off the Woods-Garcia tiff as “just the way it is,” and predicted it would all “blow over.
“Those boys will be fine,” he added about the 37-year-old Woods and Garcia, 33.
As for O’Grady, he submitted the standard-issue apology on Thursday after an oafish offer of support for Garcia.
"I deeply regret using an inappropriate word in a live interview...for which I unreservedly apologize," O'Grady said in a statement following an earlier remark in which he played the “some of my best friends are [fill in the blank]” card.
"We accept all races on the European Tour, we take it very strongly,” O’Grady said, according to The Telegraph. “Most of Sergio’s friends happen to be very, er, are colored athletes in the United States.”
Garcia had this to say Thursday about O’Grady’s original comment: “I think it’s unfortunate.”