Tiger Woods tiff messed Sergio Garcia up for months in 2013

Ross Kinnaird

Sergio Garcia blames his 2013 spat with Tiger Woods for many of his struggles last year.

Sergio Garcia would like to take a mulligan on the ruckus with Tiger Woods he stirred up last year with offensive remarks about the world No. 1.

Unfortunately for the 34-year-old Spaniard, in life as in the rules of golf, there is no such thing as a do-over. So Garcia, in the field in Abu Dhabi this week, will have to live with the ramifications of his bratty behavior and racist comments, which, he said, messed up his game for a good chunk of 2013.

"If you take away probably about three months in the middle of the season where we all know what happened, I think the whole year was good," Garcia told Sporting Life.com ahead of Thursday’s start to the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship.

"I don't know exactly how long, but it was probably a tough three months at least. But it was a good learning experience," Garcia said. "I thought that we learned a lot from it and I think that it made us even stronger."

The "we" and "us," no doubt, referred to Sergio and his posse because we’re pretty sure the only thing Tiger took away from the dust-up was an increased antipathy for his erstwhile would-be rival.

The most recent chapter of the decades-long Tiger-Sergio spat opened in May at The Players Championship, when Garcia blamed his third-round playing partner for an errant shot. Much hissing and moaning from the self-described aggrieved party ensued, Tiger issued a one-word response ("No") about whether he would attempt to patch things up with the golfer formerly known as El Nino, and Garcia ignited a firestorm with his lame and incendiary "fried chicken" crack during a European Ryder Cup gala.

"We will have him round every night," Garcia replied to a reporter’s query about whether the two warring parties would seek a rapprochement at the upcoming U.S. Open. "We will serve fried chicken."

Despite backing from an equally obtuse Euro Tour official, Garcia sought to apologize personally to Woods, who made nice with his nemesis on the practice range at Merion. As expected, Philadelphia sports fans, not exactly renowned for their grace and charm, gave it to Sergio, whose first round included an out-of-bounds double-bogey and another OOB drive that led to a quadruple-bogey 8.

"I don't know if I was prepared for it," Garcia conceded. "It wasn't certain to know what was going to happen and it was rough, it was difficult. Only by a minority, but they made themselves be heard."

While most of the spectators "knew me and what happened and so they accepted my apologies," Garcia noted that it was tough to hear the KFC-laden hoots and hollers of the vocal dissenters.

"It wasn't easy, because I guess that minority are always the loudest and they made themselves heard, and it's never nice to be reminded of something that you don't like and you don't enjoy," he said. "I guess the only thing you can do is keep going and do what you love to do and try to show everybody what you are and how you are and hopefully that's good enough for them to like it."

Eventually, Garcia shook off the after-effects of his actions and closed out the season with some strong performances, including his first worldwide win since the 2012 Wyndham Championship at the Thailand Golf Championship in December with girlfriend Katharina Boehm on the bag.

"I think that I started the year very nicely with a lot of good, high finishes with three good chances of winning, and then I finished the year quite strongly again. That was nice to see," Garcia noted. "I think it was just the combination of confidence, feeling good about myself, feeling good on the golf course and just letting things happen a little bit."

Garcia groupies hoping for a glimpse of the telegenic Boehm will be disappointed.

"I wanted to keep going but she fired me," joked Garcia, who won't be giving up his day job for stand-up comedy any time soon. "It was something she wanted to do since we started dating and I thought that would be a good week, being the end of the year and maybe a little bit more relaxed.

"I think it turned out pretty good but I think we'll leave it; she has a good winning percentage at the moment."

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