Sergio Garcia has escaped punishment for what could be construed as a racist remark about Tiger Woods after offering an unreserved apology for his “stupid and out of place” comments at the European Tour’s annual awards ceremony.
Garcia, who has been involved in a public row with Woods since the Players Championships at Sawgrass this month, was on stage with the rest of the victorious Ryder Cup team on Tuesday evening.
During a question and answer session hosted by the Golf Channel’s Steve Sands, the 33-year-old was asked if he would have the world number one around for dinner one night during the upcoming US Open.
“We will have him round every night,” Garcia said. “We will serve fried chicken.”
Garcia initially issued a statement via the European Tour last night apologising for the “silly remark” and held a press conference at Wentworth this afternoon, just moments after Woods wrote on Twitter:
The comment that was made wasn’t silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate...— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) May 22, 2013
I’m confident that there is real regret that the remark was made.— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) May 22, 2013
The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it’s long past time to move on and talk about golf.— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) May 22, 2013
Garcia said: “I want to send out an unreserved apology, I did not mean to offend anyone. I was caught off guard by the question but don’t get me wrong, I understand my answer was totally stupid and out of place.
“I can’t say sorry enough. I would also like to say sorry to the European Tour and my Ryder Cup team-mates for taking the shine away from a wonderful dinner that we all enjoyed to that point.
“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.”
Such apologies have been enough to satisfy European Tour chief executive George O’Grady and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, while Garcia said he wanted to speak to Woods directly. He does not have his phone number but has left a message with Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg.
Asked if he accepted his comment was racist, Garcia said: “It was not meant that way. 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.”
Asked if he thought about pulling out of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, which gets under way tomorrow, Garcia said: ``If you asked me that this morning I might have.
“My mind is not in the greatest place at the moment but I feel like the tournament deserves to have me, it has nothing to do with it. It was all on me.
“As soon as I left the dinner I started to get a sick feeling. I didn’t really sleep at all. I felt like my heart was going to come out of my body. It was tough to hit a shot (in the pro-am) without thinking about it.”
Garcia’s remark was similar to one made by Fuzzy Zoeller about Woods in 1997. After Woods won the Masters which entitled him to choose the champions’ dinner menu for the following year, Zoeller said: “You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not serve fried chicken next year. Got it? Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.” Zoeller later apologised and said he had been misconstrued.
“I don’t know (if there will be a backlash),” Garcia added. “The only thing I can do is say sorry.”