Since golf fans watched a youthful Sergio Garcia close his eyes and attempt the go-for-broke shot from behind the tree at No. 16 in the final round at Medinah Country Club in the 1999 PGA Championship, he has been a media darling.
His jubilant hop-skip-and-jump across the fairway to watch his golf ball slicing onto the green grabbed golfers across the world and everyone became immediate fans of the exuberant 19-year-old Spaniard.
Even through the difficulties of watching an uncertain Garcia grip and re-grip his club while unsympathetic New York golf fans audibly counted out his twitches at Bethpage Black in the 2002 U.S. Open, the rest of the world still gave him the benefit of the doubt.
The golf kingdom, especially European golf fans, felt the deep despair of his failure to make that eight-foot putt for the win on the last hole in the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie. Totally deflated, he went on to lose the four-hole aggregate playoff to Padraig Harrington.
Garcia revels in the team atmosphere of the Ryder Cup matches. He never fails to excel for the European team. Even though he was not a playing member of the 2010 team that defeated the USA at Celtic Manor, European team captain Colin Montgomerie asked Garcia to be an assistant captain for his enthusiasm and spirit.
Sergio Garcia has felt the highs and the lows of professional golf. He wears his feelings prominently for the entire world to see, warts and all.
Garcia may have tainted his image forever with his latest comments, however.
While on stage in an a black tie affair at Wentworth Club preceding the BMW PGA Championship, he was asked if he would be inviting Tiger Woods to dinner during the U.S. Open at Merion.
Golf Channel reported that he replied, “We will have him around every night.”
The assembled crowd was amused at this comment and laughed.
But then Garcia added the following quip: “We will serve fried chicken.”
This blatant racist remark harkened back to remarks that Fuzzy Zoeller made after Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters.
When asked if he had any comments on Woods winning the Masters, Zoeller replied, “Tell him to enjoy it and not serve fried chicken at next year’s champions dinner.”
Golfers are competitors. They are trying to beat each other every time they tee it up. Golf likes to see itself as a “gentlemen’s game,” but it is still a very serious sporting battle among serious combatants.
Woods is the ultimate competitor. He has to have a heart like Secretariat to continue to win golf tournaments on aging knees after surviving the personal problems he has faced.
Golfers do not need to like each other. They just have to display appropriate etiquette on the golf course. It would be nice, however, if that proper conduct would carry over into their off-course comments.
Garcia is trying to make amends by apologizing in a press conference and by trying to reach out to Woods.
He has opened a Pandora’s Box with his most recent comments.
Just ask Fuzzy Zoeller. Attacking Tiger Woods in the media and especially in a racist manner is not a very good strategy.